Boris Johnson jokes Marcus Rashford is better leader than Keir Starmer during clash over free school meals

Jimmy Nsubuga
·3-min read

Watch: Free school meal picture insult to families, says PM

Boris Johnson has joked that Marcus Rashford is more “effective” at holding the government to account than Sir Keir Starmer after the party leaders’ latest PMQs clash.

Labour’s Starmer criticised Johnson on Wednesday over the paltry food parcels that had been delivered to families as part of the free school meals scheme.

The PM admitted the parcels were “an insult to families” after images of the food deliveries surfaced online this week.

He went on to attack Starmer, saying: “I’m grateful, by the way, to Marcus Rashford, who highlighted the issue and is doing quite an effective job in comparison with the right honourable gentleman [Starmer] in holding the government to account."

He added: "As a result of this government, we will make sure that no child goes hungry because of the privations of this pandemic."

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 13: Prime Minister, Boris Johnson leaves number 10 Downing Street  for PMQs at the House of Commons on January 13, 2021 in London, England.  (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
Boris Johnson attacked Sir Keir Starmer during PMQs. (Getty)

Starmer was not convinced with the answer and claimed food firm Chartwells had closely followed government guidance when putting together the lacklustre packages.

He said: "Like the education sector, he [Johnson] blames others and he invites me to hold him to account, so let me do that, because blaming others, Mr Prime Minister, is not as simple as that."

Starmer added: "I've checked the government guidance for free school meals, published by the Department for Education.

"It sets out an example parcel for one child for five days. One load of bread, two baked potatoes, block of cheese, baked beans, three individual yoghurts. Sound familiar?

"That's the images you just called disgraceful."

Starmer said this had all happened on the PM’s watch and that “families come last under this government, whether it's exams, free school meals, or childcare”.

After being admonished by the Speaker for calling Starmer’s statement "hypocritical and absurd", Johnson said it was the Tories who had implemented free school meals in the first place, and not Labour.

Manchester United footballer Rashford revealed on Wednesday that he had spoken to the PM and received assurances that problems with the food deliveries would be sorted.

The 23-year-old has become a powerful voice in the political discussion over the provision of food to pupils, using his Premier League status and personal experience of hunger as a child to raise awareness.

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - JANUARY 12: Marcus Rashford of Manchester United looks on during the Premier League match between Burnley and Manchester United at Turf Moor on January 12, 2021 in Burnley, England. Sporting stadiums around England remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Jon Super - Pool/Getty Images)
Manchester United attacker Marcus Rashford has championed the provision of free school meals. (Getty)

Last year Rashford led a successful publicity campaign to pressure the government into extending the provision of meals to include school holiday times.

The latest issue around food parcels, which are provided during lockdown to children aged four to seven and to those whose parents receive certain low-income state benefits, came to light after users began posting images of what they had received.

One Twitter user posted a parcel she said was expected to last 10 days of lunches containing: a loaf of bread, two potatoes, two carrots, three apples, a tomato, some dried pasta, bananas, cheese, beans and other small snacks.

The firm that provided the parcel, Chartwells, apologised and said it would be refunding schools.

Watch: Speaker rebukes Boris Johnson for showing lack of respect during COVID row