The Workers Party of Britain applauds the England star footballer Marcus Rashford in his campaign and petition for free school meals for British children.
As a man from a working-class background, Marcus Rashford’s life experience has shown him the hardship working-class people face in their daily lives. Mr Rashford has quickly become the pride of the country, not for his footballing achievements but because of his love for the people, for not conveniently forgetting his life experience as he achieved fame and wealth. It is an unwritten rule amongst working people to “remember where you came from”, but all too many do not hold true to this wisdom.
Poverty in Britain
Poverty in Britain, especially child poverty, is high and rising steeply. This was the case before the pandemic, and of course Covid-19 has only made the situation more desperate. The food insecurity such poverty causes is an unacceptable, unnecessary distraction in the daily education of our young people, and Mr Rashford deserves all the applause he is getting for speaking out on the issue.
Statistics released this year by the Department for Work and Pensions show that there were 4.2 million children living in poverty in the UK in 2018-19, up from 4.1 million the previous year. This amounts to 30% of the nation’s children – very much on the wrong side of the EU average of 22.5%, and is only set to get worse.
In our opinion, the call to provide these meals only to children with a parent or guardian in receipt of Universal Credit or equivalent benefit should go further. We believe in a hot breakfast and square meal lunch for ALL schoolchildren as a right. Many may not avail themselves of either or even both but it should be there for all who register for it.
For example, what of the households missed by the UC system? Fear of the five-week wait for payments to kick in – a period in which many are driven to food banks – or of the high repayment rates for taking an advance, have a great and deliberately dampening effect on those in the most serious of need. [i]
Furthermore, parents who have lost their job or been made redundant, along with many survivors of domestic abuse, have reported difficulty in accessing the UC benefit system, or have been denied access outright. Under the proposals as they stand, children in families such as these would be denied access to free school meals also.
What the Workers Party of Britain is asking for is nothing less than what Britain’s children are owed: free, nutritious school meals for all students, at breakfast and at lunch.
The socialist movement in this country has been demanding the provision of free meals for schoolchildren for more than 130 years. It was first raised as a demand in Britain by socialist pioneer H M Hyndman and his Social Democratic Federation (SDF).
What a sad indictment of the capitalist system that our 21st-century society continues to be blighted by the same social ills as those that were endured by our forebears in 19th-century Victorian Britain.
Now, as then, workers must organise themselves inside a political party of the working class to fight for and win their demands. We urge all workers and socialists to join with us.
On behalf of the national Members Council of the Workers Party of Britain,
George Galloway – party leader & Joti Brar – deputy leader
[i] From the CPAG (2019): “Since UC in practice turns out to be stigmatising, unreliable and changeable month-to-month, there is every chance that claimants will vote with their feet and avoid claiming it. For those in paid work, monthly assessment and payment, the threat of in-work conditionality and the sense that although in work they are being treated in the same intrusive way as out-of-work claimants may be enough to put them off altogether.”