Story: Thanks to a high profile campaign by footballer Marcus Rashford, England's free school meals scheme will continue over the summer.
Reasonable take: The UK government should be doing everything humanly possible to address the fact that 1.3 million children are going hungry in a first world country, starting with not axing a scheme that barely touches the sides of the problem. Brain rot: You've really fucked me here, Marcus. Why don't you donate some of your wages to personally fund this "entitlement scheme", hmm?
Lockdown heroes come in many forms. There are the NHS staff working tirelessly to save lives, only for student nurses to have their contracts cut short; the UberEats cyclists who brave all weather conditions to deliver you a lukewarm boneless banquet; and Marcus Rashford, the Manchester United striker who forced the Tory government into a humbling U-turn this week after they initially refused to provide free school meals for 1.3 million impoverished children in England during the summer holidays.
Sometimes, you dream of a plausible situation where a unanimous consensus could be reached within Britain. I wonder how many of us can earnestly say crisps are shit, or that an ice cold can of Lilt on the beach isn't a personal nirvana? But there are some things that go beyond preference. You would think an example of basic decency, such as "feeding hungry children", wouldn't be up for debate, but somehow middle-Englanders have managed to find a way.
This week, Britain's Green Welly Brigade sprayed a slurry of bad takes across the world wide web to rival the muck spreading that "ruins a countryside getaway". Deciding to shift their grumblings from "Black people wanting equality is bad" to "Black footballer from a working class background successfully taking on Boris Johnson and making him feed hungry kids during a pandemic is bad", the usual roster of arseholes emerged to passive aggressively "congratulate" Rashford on a campaign they view as an attack on their cushty lifestyles.
Co-editor of The Conservative Woman, Laura Perrins, said that while she is "sure Marcus Rashford is a lovely chap", she was irked that he had secured the expansion of an "entitlement scheme" funded by "middle-class tax payers who already face a huge tax burden". A sentiment delivered with all the tenderness of a gout-riddled baron feeling swindled because a serf accidentally brushed some pheasant crumb off his Tudor oak trestle table while refilling his flagon of mead.
Author of a Daily Mail "Book of the week", Peter Lloyd, also attempted to exposé Rashford’s victorious campaign by stating: "If you think Marcus Rashford is doing this alone, without a massive PR machine plotting every more, then you’re seriously naive. I doubt he even writes his own tweets."
Poor, naive Marcus Rashford, merely a pawn being underhandedly manipulated to, uh, feed 1.3 million hungry children. Next, we will be hearing some revelation about him having "TEN other team-mates who help him to score goals for England".
Next up was a fellow England international, but in the "gentleman’s sport" of rugby, Courtney Lawes, who tweeted at Rashford saying: "Great win mate, you’ve done an incredible thing for a lot of young people!" But incomprehensibly he chose not to stop there, and continued: "Maybe now would be a good time to bring attention to the importance of being financially secure and preferably married before having kids? This would go a long way to treating a big part of the issue."
Britain is a country that manages to turn a success story of overturning needless state oppression into some classist eugenics waffle that only the "financially secure" should procreate, and that poor people are simply careless for having the temerity to start a family. With private rents in England hitting a record high during lockdown and most of us condemned to a lifetime to renting, this "financially secure" prerequisite now excludes every single cunt who was born after the Chernobyl meltdown who isn’t a Twitch streamer or has an arms dealer step-dad.
Mark Littlewood, the director general of the Institute of Economic Affairs London, suggested that Marcus Rashford could get the PFA to agree that all Premier League pay a "20% anti-poverty levy on earnings about £1m pa". Which, I believe, is a flawless encapsulation of neoliberalism: a man so desperate to own a 22-year-old working class kid done good for making the Tory government look bad that he inadvertently proposes progressive taxation.
How the fuck is it even possible that, in the same news cycle, the Bank of England can announce another £100 billion to "boost the economy" while we are driven to discussing if the country can afford to subsidise £15 a week for famished kids? I guess you don’t have to look that far for answers as to why British discourse delves into the pros and cons of feeding hungry children. BBC Political editor Laura Kuenssberg's commentary on the Government U-turn read like an 800-word intro to a potato masala dosa recipe on a food blog called "LauraBakesWell", prattling on about their indecision over what to cook for the in-laws on their visit from Chalfont St Giles.
"Most of us change our minds all the time," she wrote. "Maybe this morning you had planned to go for a run, then actually when push came to shove another ten minutes in bed seemed a better idea. Maybe when you grew up you wanted to be an astronaut but then discovered that you weren't that good at physics and, developed vertigo as an adult in any case. Maybe you spent years doing one job but decided over time that it wasn't for you."
Indeed, haven’t we ALL spent this past week obfuscating the extremely simple moral decision of whether to feed hungry children? Perhaps the license payer-funded BBC could make this decision not seem as trivial as umm-ing and aah-ing between Marmite or honey on your morning toast.
When the official Opposition to the Tories majority currently amounts to Keir Starmer mumbling shit like "Mr. Honourable Prime Minister, whilst there is no doubt in my mind that you have the interest of every school child at heart, and are doing everything in your power to feed them during this pandemic, I kindly ask to extend the food voucher scheme despite the government’s financial limitations" we are probably beholden to external pressure. The real opposition is now entirely driven by high profile campaigns spearheaded by likeable and caring personalities like Marcus Rashford, who can use their platforms to make the government look cartoonishly evil and out of touch.
Me-Me-Me England's worst nightmare is influential British sport stars and the like not remaining "apolitical", because it only serves the class interests of the establishment. Let us hope this is just the first of many U-turns inspired by our clout-wielding celebrities.