Marcus Rashford, Man United footballer, man of the moment and the nation’s social conscience, has managed all of that by the age of 22.
Assorted Tory MPs two or three times his age have been making dreadful blue arses of themselves while explaining why they voted against extending free school meals for children into the half-term holiday for children in England.
After Rashford campaigned on this for the summer holidays, the government refused to listen, then executed one of those integrity-burning U-turns they keep doing.
At the time of typing, Boris Johnson and Co are refusing to change their minds this time. Five Tory MPs backed the Labour motion, so they are not quite all dreadful blue arses.
The government argues it has put more money into universal credit, while also sending £63m to local councils to help people in hardship.
I put those reported facts out there in fairness. Now let’s have a fool’s auction of Tory MPs huffing and bluffing about how families should feed children, not the state.
Who’ll give me what for Robert Goodwill, MP for Scarborough and Whitby, who reportedly claims many parents kept their children out of school during lockdown to they could have supermarket vouchers instead.
Or what about Mansfield MP Ben Bradley, who tweeted his opposition to Rashford’s free school meals campaign, implying that in his constituency the money would be spent on drugs instead. Bradley then spent even longer blaming that old villain Con Text, claiming that he absolutely did not say what everyone thought he said.
Government blather-person Kit Malthouse went on the radio in his role as the Minister For Whatever the Government’s Just Put Its Foot In. He has a proper title which you are free to look up. Anyway, blather, blather, you don’t understand at all, he said. Or something like that.
I think my favourite must be the Shipley MP Philip Davies, always a strong contender in any he-said-what? contest. Mr Davies criticised a constituent who got in touch to complain about Tory MPs voting against free school meals in half-term.
She pointed out to her MP: “Almost 20,000 children in Bradford require free school meals, the city in which you live, the place with constituents you are meant to be working for, and today you voted so they’d go hungry over the holidays.”
Delightfully, Davies accused her of virtual-signalling, adding: “I take the rather old fashioned view that parents should be primarily responsible for feeding their children rather than the state.”
What he didn’t know was that his constituent was a 16-year-old sixth-former. When told of her identity and age, he remained unabashed, as usual.
Incidentally, Davies has for a partner the fellow right-winger Esther McVey. How delightful. I wonder if together they might breed attack puppies, training them to nip the ankles of anyone who signals virtue. Nothing much is surprising any more, although I did just make that up (I think).
In 2017/18, the independent Social Metrics Commission calculated that there were 4.8m children living in poverty in the UK. That is a dreadful indictment of this country, whoever is in power. Or if you are Paul Scully, the Minister for Something or Other – I just looked, he’s Minister for London (lucky London) – childhood poverty is just a Big Shrug Emoji.
In a BBC interview, Scully said “children have been going hungry for years”, blaming Labour governments too. “It’s their fault too” isn’t much of a defence – especially when what you’ve said sounds as if children living in poverty is just one of those things.
Let’s brush aside those shabby MPs and wind up with the words of Marcus Rashford, who is using his fame and his own childhood poverty to do good.
And they are fine words…
“These children matter. These children are the future of this country. They are not just another statistic. And for as long as they don’t have a voice, they will have mine.”