Conservative Politician Blames Being Called 'Scum' for School Meals Vote

A former government minister is facing a backlash after defending Parliament's decision to throw out a motion to extend free school meals for children in poverty.

Former Conservative MP Nicky Morgan, now a life peer in the House of Lords, appeared on the BBC's Question Time program where she got into a heated debate a day after all but five Tory MPs voted down the motion. It would have seen free meals extended over school holidays until Easter 2021.

Ahead of the vote, Labour's deputy leader Angela Rayner appeared to use the word "scum" during a speech by Tory MP Chris Clarkson in the House of Commons in a debate over U.K. COVID restrictions. Rayner later issued an apology for the language "used in a heated debate".

Morgan told Question Time host Fiona Bruce: "The Labour party might have found they got more supporters [for free school meals] if the deputy leader hadn't called one of the Conservative MPs scum." Bruce responded: "That's not exactly the point, is it? I'm not sure anyone is defending that."

When asked whether the free school meals motion was not passed due to "a political reason" or because the government "doesn't believe in it", Morgan said: "The government has put money in dramatically to expand free school meals, anyway."

As the row rumbled on with Labour MP Bridget Phillipson, Morgan said she opposed the way the opposition party attempted to bring in legislation through an 'opposition day' motion. This is a day in Westminster in which an opposition party sets the agenda rather than the ruling party.

Phillipson said: "So, kids go hungry this Christmas because you don't like the parliamentary process?" Morgan said: "Yesterday's handling of the debate - watching that toxic debate in Parliament, and watching the way that it was handled if you want an issue really tackled don't put it down as an opposition day motion if you want to build a coalition in Parliament."

The free school meals row has dominated political debate in the U.K. after Boris Johnson ruled out supporting poor families with meal vouchers through the half-term and Christmas breaks. The opposition Labour party tabled the motion hoping to force backbench Tories into pressuring Johnson to agree to the move but it was voted down by 322 votes to 261 in Parliament on Wednesday evening.

Many credit Premier League footballer Marcus Rashford, 22, a former recipient of free school meals, with drawing attention to the crisis of food poverty among children in the UK. The Manchester United and England striker forced a Government U-turn on free school meal vouchers for eligible pupils over the summer holidays. He launched a petition urging the Government to extend the scheme "and go further in tackling child hunger", gaining over 300,000 signatures in support.

This week desperate parents told Newsweek exactly what the meal vouchers would have done for them, with one single mother saying she will go without meals in order to feed her daughter.

Viewers of Question Time slammed Morgan's appearance online following her comments. Anti-Brexit campaigner Femi Oluwole said: "I hope everyone can see the irony of a Tory Nicky Morgan saying she was happy to watch poor kids starve as revenge for being called scum." Labour MP Lisa Nandy shared the clip and said: "Thank goodness for MPs like Bridget Phillipson."