Published: 17:51, 27 October 2020
| Updated: 18:48, 27 October 2020
Protesters have laid dozens of empty plates outside an MP's office after he voted against a bid to extend free school meals over the holidays.
The activists placed more than 80 dishes in front of South Thanet representative Craig Mackinlay's base in Broadstairs today.
Slogans like "there’s no magic dinner tree”, "eat your words, Craig" and "save a quid and starve the kids" were emblazoned across the tableware.
Independent councillor Candy Gregory, who helped organise the demonstration, said: "He had an opportunity to vote to continue with giving them a school dinner in the holidays but chose to let them go hungry.
"The community have been fantastic but it’s the government’s responsibility to look after its people - and they have failed miserably to do so."
Under the proposals put forward last week, 1.4 million disadvantaged children in England would have been given £15-a-week food vouchers during the breaks between terms until Easter.
Despite opposing the bid, Mr Mackinlay shared a Conservative graphic on Twitter that stated the party is "supporting pupils in need" shortly after the vote.
It says they have backed free school meals for 1.4 million children from low-income families, a £9 billion spending boost for the welfare system and £63 million to help councils.
But Labour councillor Aram Rawf, who supported today's protest, said: "I never believed a wealthy civilised country like the UK could let children go hungry - yet this is what I see in poor areas like Thanet.
"Our MP has closed his eyes to the needs of the children in this area.
"Craig Mackinlay’s decision to vote against free school meals is shameful."
Just one Kent MP, Canterbury's Rosie Duffield, backed the motion to feed more than 1.4 million children during the half-term and Christmas breaks last week, as it was rejected with a majority of 61.
Conservatives Tracey Crouch and Sir Roger Gale abstained - but the rest of their Tory colleagues in Kent voted against the move.
Posting on his website yesterday, Mr Mackinlay said he believes "nationalising parenting will never end well".
"Let us be clear about what opposition day motions are: they are a regular opportunity for the official opposition to have the floor of the House of Commons to debate whatever they please and call a vote," the Conservative noted.
"For reasons of party politics, they are usually opposed - that is the nature of the game, for good or ill.
"Is it the role of the state, which is already providing detailed and considerable support, to extend that further into daily provision of meals beyond term time? Why not weekends as well? Nationalising parenting will never end well.
"My personal view is that vouchers exchangeable at shops are not the best way of providing support; there is little to no control over what is being purchased and encouraging healthy eating is not part of the formula at all."
The parliamentarian thinks further funding may be given to councils and community groups to help struggling families.