Newington head urges South Thanet MP to reconsider his actions over free school meals

Newington head teacher Cliff Stokes

The head teacher of a Ramsgate school has written to South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay accusing him of “missing a trick” over the provision of free school meals in the holidays.

In his letter, Cliff Stokes, who runs Newington Community Primary School, asks the MP to meet with those who have benefited from the meal scheme and urges him to reconsider his actions.

Mr Mackinlay was among 321 Conservatives who voted against the extension of free school meals for disadvantaged pupils during the holidays. North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale did not vote.

The failure of the motion, which was prompted by footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign, has caused fury in Thanet and across the country.

Craig Mackinlay

In his letter to Mr Mackinlay, Mr Stokes wrote: “No child in the 21st Century should go hungry.

“I read with interest your reasoning for voting against providing a free school meal (FSM) during holidays for every child entitled to them, until the pandemic is under control.

“Unfortunately, I feel that your answer was more about parliamentary protocol and not about what children actually need, and should be entitled to, a hot meal every day.

“Whilst I understand your reasoning, that the Government is putting money into measures that will support parents in coping with the current situation, a quick, easy and relatively cheap way of supporting children, would have been through a continuation of the FSM scheme.

“Come and speak to those who benefited from the scheme at Newington and see whether it would have made a difference to children’s lives.

Newington Community Primary School

“I really feel that you, alongside your Conservative MP colleagues, have missed a trick, have misunderstood the real needs of the large numbers of families in our community, and will hopefully reconsider your actions.”

Mr Stokes is asking anyone who agrees with the position of the school and the extension of free school meals through the holidays to email Mr Mackinlay at [email protected].

The MP defended his decision to vote against the extension, saying it was ‘untrue’ to say he has voted against free school meals and branded the motion as ‘political gameplaying.’

He said an amended motion, which he supported, outlined the help government is already giving to families in need.

Since the controversial vote, a number of businesses and organisations have stepped up to help families who may be struggling, by offering free meals.

To see the list click here.


  1. If there is a genuine need then the problem has been solved by local business and the community.

    The state is not there to be the 24/7 parent for the nation’s children.

    It’s a storm in a tea cup to score political points

  2. Suggesting that Mr Mackinlay has “missed a trick” rather implies, generously, that our local MP, and others who think like him, have just overlooked a simple way of keeping the children fed in a difficult time.
    But Mackinlay, and many of his local supporters , have no intention of keeping the country’s children well fed, even in these very specific, critical times.
    They have no interest in a well-run country where all have access to nutritious food and all have equal opportunities in life. For them, Britain should be a “dog-eat-dog” society where the poor go without (as they think it is all their own fault), where the homeless must freeze on the streets (as it’s all their own fault) where the low paid deserve their starvation wages (as they could “just” get a better job) or the sick should have to queue at a poorly-funded NHS hospital (as they should have private insurance).
    Much of the local Tory vote relies on the “I’m alright , Jack and sod the rest” types. The ones who claim to be comfortable because they “worked all my life” when, in fact, they are quids-in because their house rocketed in value through no efforts of their own.

  3. I think that in these exceptional circumstances and in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, it is our duty to ensure that children should be adequately fed. Lack of proper nutrition impacts on a child’s physical and mental development and further disadvantages children in Thanet which is recognised as an area of social deprivation.

  4. Right wing politicians blame parents for child poverty. Even if they are right (which I disagree with) then it is more imperative that the government comes to their rescue. As a local councillor i will redouble my efforts to help families to eat well during these difficult times.

  5. The Tories are shameful cheapskates.

    Depriving children of a healthy diet is just another string to their bow that is fast becoming a fascist dictatorship.

    Remember Thatcher the milk snatcher?

    Well, the Tories have pretty much destroyed everything that made this society caring and world-leading(not beating)since the second world war. Those veterans will be turning in their graves at the disgraceful behaviour meted out in policies that benefit the rich, by the Conservatives.

    I for one on the 11th of the 11th will be thinking what the heck was everything that was fought for about – Britain is in a terrible mess and millions of people and children in particular learning that Tories do not care a jot for them.

  6. Craig Mackinlay made the mistake of toeing the Govt line and then inferring that he hadn’t, which makes him look either a knave or a fool. A knave because he did not stand by his action and a fool by trying to pull the wool over the eyes of his critics and getting found out. Roger Gale laid low, because he saw how the wind was blowing, which Mackinlay did not have the sense to pick up on.
    If you think you are part of an invincible machine, you will make these sort of mistakes. The PM is still in a post election reverie, but the public appear to have forgotten what they did only 11 months ago.
    For the saving of a few million, the Govt has again shot it self in the foot, as it did over the Barnard Castle malarkey. Compared to the £9/12Bn blown on a useless Test, Track and Trace system it is peanuts.
    Finally, I come to the deserving poor, feckless parent argument, which is often shouted to justify a mean spirited opinion.
    At no time since the great depression have families of all kinds had to face, the loss of work, income, and liberty on such a scale. The food banks have a growing level of demand because the social safety net is inadequate. The school meal voucher system is not the answer, but in place of anything else, what can be done in the short term.
    Those who criticise deprived families are often talking through their hat, from a position of relative wealth, having lived through the post war boom, where jobs, pay and pensions were more than adequate. Today’s families are facing a perfect storm and perhaps those who are living on final salary pensions, the triple lock, and a substantial level of equity in their housing, might recognise that and be a bit more empathetic.

  7. It comes to something when businesses, foot ballers, shop keepers, restauranters and ordinary folk rally together to do something the government should be doing.
    Perhaps these public spirited, socially responsible and morally robust people could extend their remit beyond feeding hungry children – and take over the running of the country from this utterly useless government.

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