A Conservative MP has made clear he doesn’t believe in “nationalising children” in an apparent attack on proposals to extend free school meals for the poorest over the holidays.
On Wednesday, MPs voted against a measure spearheaded by England football star Marcus Rashford which called for the scheme to be extended over school holidays until Easter 2021.
The Manchester United player told politicians to “stop stigmatising, judging and pointing fingers” after Labour’s motion was defeated by 261 votes to 322, a majority of 61.
The debate preceding the vote was marked by Conservative MPs criticising the Rashford-led campaign because of its association with “celebrities”.
Perhaps the stand-out comment came from Bassetlaw MP Brendan Clarke-Smith, who said he did not believe in “nationalising children”.
He told the Commons: “Where is the slick PR campaign encouraging absent parents to take some responsibility for their children?
“I do not believe in nationalising children.
“Instead, we need to get back to the idea of taking responsibility, and this means less celebrity virtue-signalling on Twitter by proxy and more action to tackle the real causes of child poverty.”
The comment, to put it charitably, raised eyebrows.
“I do not believe in nationalising children.” Oh my god you absolute fucking moron pic.twitter.com/inas9tMLQd
— Hannah Jane Parkinson (@ladyhaja) October 21, 2020
Imagine thinking that giving out free school meals is “nationalising children”. Imagine having that level of analysis and being an actual elected representative. https://t.co/dzJXbIELW0
— Tom Hamilton (@thhamilton) October 21, 2020
Fair play to him - he doesn't believe in nationalising children https://t.co/QGTDUsl9jJ
— robert shrimsley (@robertshrimsley) October 21, 2020
2019: Nationalising sausages
2020: Nationalising children https://t.co/QPSCR77tWE
— Ross McCafferty (@RossMcCaff) October 21, 2020
“We need to get back to the idea of taking responsibility.” Imagine supporting this government and saying that with a straight face. https://t.co/BD2wKdznXo
— Chris Addison (@mrchrisaddison) October 21, 2020
As a House of Commons briefing paper points out, the private sector has owned and run the majority of industries and utilities in the UK since the late 1980s.
Other Tory MPs adopted a similar line of attack.
Keiren Mullan, who represents Crewe and Nantwich, called on “millionaire celebrities” to do more to help voluntary sector, and David Simmonds said Labour was “currying favour with wealth and power and celebrity status”/
Simmonds, who represents Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner, said: “What does it say about the Opposition’s priorities that all of their interests are simply swept aside in favour of currying favour with wealth and power and celebrity status, spending taxpayers’ money to curry favour with celebrity status, wealth and power.
“Now I have no doubt that Mr Rashford is an expert in his own experience, but we should not forget that the experiences he so movingly described took place under a Labour government then supposedly at the peak of its powers in tackling child poverty in this country.”
Time we worked together. pic.twitter.com/xFPsgBiPQC
— Marcus Rashford MBE (@MarcusRashford) October 21, 2020
But not all their Conservative colleagues agreed.
Five Tory MPs rebelled to support the motion, including education select committee chairman Robert Halfon.
The division list showed the other four were Caroline Ansell (Eastbourne), Jason McCartney (Colne Valley), Anne Marie Morris (Newton Abbot) and Holly Mumby-Croft (Scunthorpe).
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.