James O'Brien: "Government has made the same mistake again over school meals"

26 October 2020, 13:08 | Updated: 26 October 2020, 13:12

By Fiona Jones

James O'Brien questioned why the Government made the "avoidable mistake" of voting against free school meals for children during the holidays when they U-turned in July over the same, relevant issue.

This comes as Downing Street is being put under mounting pressure to reverse the vote on providing free school meals over the holidays in England.

In response, many councils of both political stripes in England have pledged to provide free school meals, alongside many local eateries countrywide.

James questioned why this "increasingly absurd" decision was made when the backlash for the Government was "easily avoidable."

"How have they managed to dig themselves into such a deep hole?" James asked, pointed out that the rationale for providing free meals for school age children in July and August "applies as much today as it did in the summer."

"We gave them free meals because the circumstances of coronavirus is so unprecedented - and they still are," James said, "that's the bit I can't get past. How have they managed to make the same mistake again?"

"From where I'm sitting they've just done exactly the same thing again, with the possible difference being that this time they won't reverse course and do the right thing better late than never."

"Somewhere in that power structure, somebody presumably thinks that doing the right thing in June was the wrong thing, and having done the wrong thing in June, which the massive majority of the country considered to be the right thing, they're now going to do in October, which the massive majority of the country - regardless of their political hue."

James referenced some of the Tory MPs who have spoken out against this, including senior Tory Robert Halfon who voted against the the decision, and Tobias Ellwood, who has said he would vote the opposite way if it was put in front of the House having heard the alternative provisions.

"Whether you love them or loathe them, they've literally run at full speed into a roadblock that they dismantled in June - 48 hours late, after some nonsense about not knowing about it," James said, "back in June they had an absolute mare and they just about pulled themselves through it...and they've just, it would appear, done it all over again.

"I don't understand how."