Protesters have taken to the streets in fury at the Tories’ decision to deny children free school meals.
Some 322 Tory MPs voted last week against a Labour motion in parliament to provide food to children on free schools meals in half term and other school breaks.
Some councils are now saying that they will provide food to children that need it. But that money will have to come from their existing cash-strapped budgets. It should come from central government.
The anger over the move has been heightened by Tory MPs’ contemptible behaviour since.
Tory MP Ben Bradley is under pressure after a tweet which has been accused of linking free school meals with “crack dens” and “brothels”.
He wrote of an area of Mansfield where allegedly, “One kid lives in a crack den, another in a brothel. Extending FSM doesn’t reach these kids.”
Bradley then replied to a tweet in which another user said, “£20 cash direct to a crack den and brothel really sounds like way forward with this one”. Bradley wrote, “That’s what FSM vouchers in the summer effectively did …”
Around 40 people gathered in Newcastle for a protest on Friday. Protesters held signs saying “Starve Tories not kids” and “Make the Tories pay, end child poverty”.
In London up to 60 people gathered outside Downing Street. The protest was called by Students for a Safe Return, a group that called actions to demand the Tories do a U-turn on A-Levels two months ago.
On the protest, activists held signs that read, "No child should go hungry” and “Eat nowt to help out”. After hearing from speakers the group then marched to Parliament Square.
Jen, one of the organisers, told Socialist Worker, “We want to be a voice for those who can’t speak out.”
“People in deprived areas desperately need food subsidies. Even in my college people are homeless and going hungry.”
And Ted, another student, pointed out that the Tories only ever neglect poor young people.
He told Socialist Worker that, “Private school students weren’t hit by the A-Level scandal. And they won’t be affected by not being able to receive food in the half term.”
Speakers denounced the fact that MPs who are in line to receive a £3,000 pay rise this year are also the ones who voted to starve children.
And MPs receive £25 a day in expenses for food and drinks when outside London.
Rob Behan, a NEU union member from east London, union told the crowd, “With this, we can see the real priorities of the government and it’s not helping us.
“They put millions into an excel spreadsheet track and trace system that doesn’t work.
“Really the money is going to all their rich friends”.
Katherine, a dietician said, “I come across people suffering from malnutrition all of the time. I’ve treated people recently who are homeless and haven’t eaten properly in weeks. I’m prescribing people food.”
Student speakers told the crowd that if they could make the government do a U-turn on A-Levels that they could do it with free school meals.
On the demonstration in London, protesters chanted, “When I say Tory you say scum”.
People Before Profit on the streets
Supporters of the People Before Profit group are gearing up for a day of action against the Tory scrapping of the furlough scheme.
The Tory plan leaves hundreds of thousands facing the prospect of mass unemployment when the furlough ends next Saturday.
Around 20 supporters of Greater Manchester Coronavirus Action Group—People Before Profit campaigned for “Manchester’s missing millions” on Saturday. They demanded support for all those laid off under the new tier three lockdown restrictions.
The Tories short-changed the ten local authorities in Greater Manchester by £30 million compared to what Labour mayor Andy Burnham said was required to help people.
Karen Reissmann, an NHS nurse, said, “We’ve got a protest here next week on 31 October—it’s Halloween and we’ve definitely got a nightmare in Britain.
“We have a Tory government that doesn’t care about ordinary people. Throughout this pandemic, time and time again, that government has put rich people and their profiteering above the needs of ordinary people.
“You look at the health service where I work—you’ve had hundreds of health workers die because they couldn’t give us the right PPE. And they couldn’t do that because they’ve given the contract to privateers, who wanted to save a bit of money while giving us cheap masks.”
Campaigners leafletted shoppers for the Manchester demonstration next Saturday. They then marched to join a People's Assembly protest in nearby Piccadilly Gardens.
Laila, one of the workers laid off by Debenhams, slammed bosses’ attempts to make working class people pay for the coronavirus crisis. “They sent us a text message and invited us to a conference call the following morning,” she said.
“There were some who had worked for Debenhams for ten years, for 20 years, for 30 years, but all of us were told we were just going to get three more days’ pay.”
Meanwhile, supporters of People Before Profit in Glasgow went down to support victimised trade unionist Richie Venton outside the Ikea furniture store. Richie, a Usdaw union rep, was dismissed last month after warning workers of planned attacks on workplace rights.
There were banners from the Unite, RMT EIS and Unison unions as well as the Covid-19 action group.
The previous day People Before Profit supporters and trade unionists in Chesterfield organised a “Sack Serco” flashmob. The outsourcing giant has leached millions in public money for the failed test and trace system.
The campaigning followed successful People Before Profit launch meetings attended by over 100 people online in both Manchester and Glasgow.