Free school meals, Channel crossings and a crucial report in the Covid crisis

Sienna Rodgers
© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor
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The free school meal row is rumbling on, as one Tory council leader has advised parents who struggle to feed their children to shop at Marks and Spencer and accused Marcus Rashford of creating a “political football”. He’s a real comedian, this one. Dido Harding’s husband John Penrose has also chipped in, blaming “chaotic parents” for food poverty. But will ministers listen instead to the government’s own food tsar? Henry Dimbleby has sent Downing Street a four-point plan for a holiday activity and food programme and a healthy food voucher scheme, as well as Labour’s demand for extended free school meals. He is urging them to “set aside ideology”. If the government won’t listen to campaigners, maybe this Etonian from a famous family can convince them.

Devastating news emerged as a boat sank in the Channel yesterday, leading to the deaths of four people including two young children aged five and eight. Others have been hospitalised. As usual, the government has responded by promising to make crossings “unviable”. Labour’s Nick Thomas-Symonds has called for “compassion”, and specifically for the Home Office to reopen safe legal routes and the Dubs scheme, which offered sanctuary to lone minors until ministers decided the mere 480 places had been filled. The opposition is also urging the government to reverse the decision to scrap the Department for International Development and come to an agreement with France.

In Covid news, the Resolution Foundation has released a report with crucial data for the UK’s handling of the economic crisis. The think tank has found that the unemployment rate in September was likely to be 7%, and 20% for 18- to 24-year-olds. Another group being disproportionately affected, as predicted by everyone and highlighted by the Lawrence Review this week, is Black, Asian and minority ethnic workers. 22% of BAME workers furloughed during lockdown have since lost their jobs. Youth and BAME unemployment are the two areas to which Gordon Brown has drawn attention in recent months. Read our write-up here, which features the TUC’s response to the vital research.

On LabourList today, we’ve got an interview with Kate Dearden from Community union on the struggle of self-employed workers to be heard during the coronavirus crisis. We talk about their new campaign and new inquiry, how the self-employed are misunderstood and how they’ve been forgotten by the government. I will also be in conversation with shadow minister Sarah Jones tonight. If you have suggestions for questions on her policy brief, policing and the fire services, please email them to me – and don’t forget to join us at this link from 6pm to watch the event live.

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