Tory MP Ben Bradley claims free school meals tweet ‘taken out of context’

A Conservative MP has insisted a tweet which has prompted accusations that he was stigmatising working class families was "totally taken out of context".

Ben Bradley, elected to become the first Tory MP for Mansfield in 2017, replied to a tweet in which another user described the free school meals programme as "£20 cash direct to a crack den and a brothel".

In a post on Twitter which has since been removed, he wrote: "That's what FSM vouchers in the summer effectively did..."

Asked to explain what he meant, Mr Bradley said giving children who live in "chaotic" situations an "unrestricted voucher to spend on whatever isn't helpful" – but Labour has pointed out the vouchers in summer could only be used to buy food.

Mr Bradley told BBC Breakfast: "It (the tweet) has been totally taken out of context. I was merely making the point that there are kids who live in really chaotic situations, really difficult lives, where actually giving them an unrestricted voucher to spend on whatever isn't helpful.

"The point I'm making is we need to wrap our arms as a society around those families. That's why Government has given that money to local government because they are best placed working with social services, working with schools, to be able to find those families, to target them, to help them in a more holistic way than meal vouchers."

25 PHOTOS
Marcus Rashford
See Gallery
Marcus Rashford
Manchester United's English Forward Marcus Rashford celebrates after scoring a goal during the UEFA Europa League Group H first-leg football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Manchester United at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris on October 20, 2020. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP) (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)
Manchester United's English Forward Marcus Rashford celebrates after scoring a goal during the UEFA Europa League Group H first-leg football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Manchester United at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris on October 20, 2020. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP) (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)
Manchester United's Marcus Rashford celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during the Barclays Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester.
(R - L) Manchester United's Michael Carrickm Chris Smalling, Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford, Marouane Fellaini, Ashley Young and Marcus Rojo celebrates with the trophy during the Emirates FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday May 21, 2016. See PA story SOCCER Final. Photo credit should read: Nick Potts/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: EDITORIAL USE ONLY No use with unauthorised audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.
England's Marcus Rashford and Wayne Rooney during the training session at the Stade du Bourgognes, Chantilly, France.
L-R: England's Ryan Bertrand, Danny Rose and Marcus Rashford board the plane at Luton Airport.
England's Marcus Rashford (left) and Jesse Lingard during a walkaround at Stadion Stozice, Ljubliana.
Manchester United's Marcus Rashford celebrates scoring his side's third goal of the game during the Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester.
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho (left) watches from the touchline as Manchester United's Marouane Fellaini (right) and Manchester United's Marcus Rashford prepare to come on
Manchester United's Marcus Rashford scores his side's first goal of the game during the UEFA Europa League Semi-Final, first leg match, at the Estadio Municipal de Balaidos, Vigo.
Manchester United's Marcus Rashford (left) with Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho after the final whistle during the Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester.
Manchester United's Marcus Rashford (front) and Jesse Lingard celebrate winning the UEFA Europa league after the final whistle
(left to right) Romelu Lukaku, Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Stormzy and Marcus Rashford attend a gala dinner at Old Trafford in Manchester, held by Manchester United and Unicef to raise funds for the charity.
England's Marcus Rashford (left) shakes hands with manager Gareth Southgate after the Bobby Moore Fund International match at Wembley Stadium, London.
Manchester United's Marcus Rashford lies in pain after picking up a back injury during the FA Cup third round replay match at Old Trafford, Manchester.
Manchester United's Alexis Sanchez is substituted for team mate Marcus Rashford during the Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester.
England's Marcus Rashford (left) and Costa Rica's Celso Borges battle for the ball during the International Friendly match at Elland Road, Leeds.
England's Marcus Rashford appears dejected after the final whistle during the FIFA World Cup, Semi Final match at the Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow.
Burnley's Phillip Bardsley (left) and Manchester United's Marcus Rashford clash during the Premier League match at Turf Moor, Burnley.
A young Manchester United fan holds up a sign for Manchester United's Marcus Rashford in the stands
Marcus Rashford of Manchester United after scoring the 2-1 during the match between Valencia CF vs Manchester United of UEFA Champions League, Group Stage, group H, date 6, 2018-2019 season. Mestalla Stadium. Valencia, Spain - 12 DIC 2018. (Photo by pressinphoto/Sipa USA)
Manchester United's Marcus Rashford celebrates scoring his side's third goal of the game during the UEFA Champions League match at the Parc des Princes, Paris, France.
England's Marcus Rashford (centre) celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game with team-mates during the Nations League Semi Final at Estadio D. Alfonso Henriques, Guimaraes.
England manager Gareth Southgate (left) and Marcus Rashford during a press conference at Wembley Stadium, London.
Manchester United's Marcus Rashford scores his side's second goal of the game from the penalty spot during the Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester.
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

He added "not everything has to come from central Government" and said local communities also have a role to play, praising Marcus Rashford's campaign as "brilliant in rallying round communities".

MPs rejected the Manchester United player's call to offer free school meals for children during half-term.

A vote on the measures was backed by Labour and made its way to Parliament this week but was defeated by 322 votes to 261.

The footballer's petition to end child food poverty had gained more than 640,000 signatures by Saturday morning and his campaign has seen businesses and organisations around the country offering free food to those in need.

Following Mr Bradley's tweet, Labour's deputy leader Angela Rayner said: "A Conservative MP has said that free school meals are effectively a direct payment to brothels and drug dealers.

"Notwithstanding the fact that the vouchers in summer could only be used to purchase food, this stigmatisation of working class families is disgraceful and disgusting."

Shadow children's minister Tulip Siddiq has written to the co-chairwoman of the Conservative Party, Amanda Milling, demanding an apology is sought from Mr Bradley.

👇 My letter to the Conservative Party Chair demanding an apology from the Tory MP Ben Bradley for his troubling comment that #FreeSchoolMeal vouchers "effectively" gave "cash direct to a crack den and brothel". pic.twitter.com/M00TPv0U0G

— Tulip Siddiq (@TulipSiddiq) October 23, 2020

She said: "Notwithstanding the fact that free school meal vouchers could only be redeemed in participating supermarkets for the purchase of food and groceries, I am sure that you will want to make clear that this kind of crass stigmatisation of children from poorer families is deeply damaging, and distance yourself from Mr Bradley's misleading and troubling comments.

"In the meantime, I respectfully ask you to request an apology from Mr Bradley to the millions of children from lower income households who benefit from free school meal support."

Read Full Story Click here to comment

FROM OUR PARTNERS