Seb Reilly: The horror of the Thanet Serpent and the disgrace of voting down free school meals holiday extension

MP Craig Mackinlay voted against the Opposition Day motion (stock image)

Have you seen the Thanet Serpent?

According to legend, a horrible creature lurks around these parts. It’s the kind of thing that would be drawn onto old maps, with the words ‘Here be dragons’ written alongside. Yet the Thanet Serpent is real, and I know its name.

The first recorded sighting of a sea serpent in Thanet was in 1917. The Paramount, an auxiliary naval patrol boat, was cruising around a mile off the coast of North Foreland. The crew reported an encounter with a 15m-long snake-like creature covered in dark green scales with a spiny dorsal fin “like some gigantic conger eel”. The crew fired upon it, and one shot hit the dorsal fin. The creature “began to thrash about wildly and violently” before sinking beneath the water.

A little along the coast in Herne Bay, 1934, a monster around 6m in length was visible from the clifftops. A crowd gathered and some eyewitnesses describe it as having dark scales with a yellow underside. It was chased by motor boats at around 40mph, yet it easily outran them and escaped.

The tale turns to John Handley, a tourist, who was swimming off the Cliftonville coast in the summer of 1950 when a gigantic serpentine beast lifted from the sea around 90m away. He described its head as around an arm’s-length wide and resembling an enormous horse.

Then, in 1999, two anglers on Folkestone pier described “a huge animal” that was around 30m long which they watched through binoculars diving and resurfacing for around half an hour.

Finally, in a twist in the tale, a creature was photographed off the coast of Herne Bay in 2016 by Michael Green, a tourist from Northamptonshire. He was taking pictures of a couple on a viewing point, but inadvertently got a picture of an unknown and very large thing rising from the waves behind them.

Now, I admit that some of this might sound a little fishy, but I think a great sea creature lurking off the shore of Margate seems more realistic than a company with no ferries being awarded a ferry contract by the government, then collapsing with £2million in debt. If Seaborne Ferries is real, why can’t the Thanet Serpent be? At least it’s actually in the water.

According to Oceana, over 80% of the world’s oceans remain unexplored, so it’s certainly a possibility. Of course, those sightings could be oarfish, or sea snakes, or any number of other known species.

This was originally supposed to be a silly Halloween column, but events of this last week changed that. I spotted the Thanet Serpent, and it was on land.

This week, a motion was tabled in Parliament on an Opposition Day, by Labour. It called for free school meals to be offered over school breaks until Easter 2021. It fell by 322 votes to 261. The motion was then amended and voted through. The amended motion removed the offering of free school meals during school breaks, instead stating it would “continue to offer free school meals in term time”. That means nothing changes.

Sir Roger Gale, the Conservative MP for Thanet North, did not vote for the original motion. He abstained. He did not vote against his own party, but nor did he vote down a motion to feed possibly underfed and potentially starving children within his own constituency. He stood by his principles within the rules of his party.

Craig Mackinlay, the Conservative MP for Thanet South, did vote down the original motion. He voted against feeding children, then voted to carry on feeding them only during term times, and then defended his actions and shared the following self-congratulatory propaganda on social media:


Thanet has almost 10,000 children under the age of 16 who live below the poverty line after housing costs. That’s over a third of the children who live here. Of those, near to 6,000 are living in what Kent County Council describes as “absolute low income households”. That means one in five of our children are in a position where their families struggle to afford food. In other words, out of every class of thirty children, at least ten are technically in poverty, and six are in the lowest income threshold possible.

A child living below the poverty line is not a political issue, it is a moral one. Who you vote for or where you sit on the political spectrum is irrelevant when it comes to children’s lives. They did not choose to be born. They did not pick where they would be born, who their parents would be, or whether they would be children during a pandemic. They do not have time machines that allow them to go back to before they were conceived to tell their parents “Make sure you can afford me if you’re going to have me.” They have no say in any of this.

The only moral choice is to ensure all children have access to four basic things: food, water, shelter, and education. To deprive any child of any of these is unethical no matter what your beliefs. If you want to do something, there is a petition to sign which you can find here.

Sir Roger Gale did something. Whether it was enough or not is open for debate, but he made a point. Only five Conservative MPs voted for the original motion. They did something. Craig Mackinlay, on the other hand, voted to deprive children within his constituency of food. He then congratulated himself on doing a good job by putting out a deceptive graphic that implied he was doing something positive by voting for nothing to change. That is more than manipulative—it is horrific.

We are still in the middle of a pandemic. People have lost their jobs, their incomes, and their way of finding new work. More people out of work means less jobs, more competition, less wages, and more people going hungry. Craig Mackinley could have done something about that, something more than he currently does. It is not about politics. It is about humanity.

There’s no wonder that children have the likes of Marcus Rashford as their heroes. No child would ever look to a man who voted to allow them and their classmates to potentially starve by not changing anything and think: ‘When I grow up, I want to be just like him.’

The Thanet Serpent is real, but it is not in the sea. It sits in Parliament.

Shame on you, Craig Mackinlay.

Thanet steps up to pledge help following government rejection of extension to free school meals

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


  1. Sea serpents aside , you are talking utter rubbish. It is the PARENT’S responsibility to feed their childred , NOT the taxpayers. You created them …you feed them !

    • Taxes are there to support when people are in need. Not to pay for MPs food and drink. Priorities Kevin, Priorities.

      There’s a thing called COVID 19, wondered if you’ve heard of it? Craig’s troll account is so low budget.

    • Not so easy when many people have been put out of work by a pandemic. Forget about children for a moment-for the last decade under Cameron etc food bank usage has gone up insanely-from tens of thousands to millions, single people & couples working on those wonderful zero hours/ad-hoc contracts the Tories love, along with all the wage etc freezes while the cost of living increases are often unable to feed themselves without assistance.

      • Exactly it’s not just Covid causing hungry children, in spite of austerity people gave continued to produce children they can’t afford to feed, most people adjust the size of their family to what they can afford. There is an element of society who will never take responsibility and they are the people taking the money from people who can’t help themselves. Temporarily offer food vouchers during this pandemic. I am proud to live in a welfare state and .I am sick of so called socialiists continually denigrating our wonderful country because they lost the last General Election so emphatically.

    • So you mean that only the super rich should have children? Because even comfortably well off people cannot predict what is around the corner – they certainly couldn’t have predicted a pandemic.

      • Absolutely Eleanor. I’m no right-on lefty, but (as an example close to home), my sister had six kids which were all provided for by her hard-working partner – who then died suddenly at an accident at work. Fortunately the state was there to provide a safety net.

    • And if the parents can’t afford to feed them what do you suggest Kevin? Let them starve or re-open the victorian work houses! Obviously Tories think that it is the child’s fault they are going hungry so must be punished for it. Craig Macklinay has proved he is a snake once again and not to be trusted, people of Thanet need to wake up and get this idiot out he dose not live in Thanet and he does not care about any of you, so why vote him in again and again. All he cares about in lining his pockets at your expense.

    • A bit difficult if you have been furloughed or lost your job during this pandemic. I am guessing you don’t care taxpayers money subsidises MP’S meals in HOC and Craig’s £31k expenses he claimed last year, but hey let’s let kids starve eh.

    • The caring face of conservatism rearing it’s very ugly face again. And I shamefully voted for them last time. The children have no say in whether they are born or not , nor wether the parents are up to the job through mental health or drink/drug issues. Not the children’s fault. That aside there are hundreds of families here whose wage has disappeared, many in short hours or zero hours contracts. Plus many who were cash in hand in pubs, cleaning etc that have gone. Shame on you cannot understand this .

    • It is the parents responsibility to feed the child but it is the government’s responsibility to create the economic opportunity to allow the parent to gain the means to feed the child.

    • The sea serpent is the lockness monster on holiday

      Why would the government vote against meals for needy children during the school holidays most of the children come from families on the breadline who have not & will not recover from all the money they lost during the lockdown

  2. Absolutely true Kevin. If parents continue to shirk responsibility for their kids it should be classed as abuse and the kids removed into care or adoption. Stop excusing irresponsibility and fecklessness.

    • Do you have any idea how much it costs to take a child into care and either foster or keep in a children’s home? £thousands per year that we are paying for in our income and council tax. Much better and cheaper to support families. Anyway, we’ve had this debate elsewhere and it is getting tedious trying to reason with some people.

  3. Here we go again with Kevin Payne making his highly-predictable statement. None of us knows what is round the corner when we have children or maybe Kevin and those who make similar comments do have a fortune-teller predicting their future. Does anyone expect redundancy? Anyone anticipating physical and mental health will hit them? Does anyone expect to lose their partner or spouse to illness or accident? Did anyone expect this pandemic and its devastating impact on lives and jobs? No, of course not.

    • Indeed and not helped by the Tories sitting on their asses for months before they actually bothered to do anything in March.

  4. Thought I was reading Fortean Times at the start-well played. Yes, No doubt a very arrogant man has been buoyed by his acquittal over the expenses scandal-not sure why anybody is surprised at it considering his history as shown by theyworkforyou.

    On 29 Sep 2020: Craig Mackinlay voted not to require a “climate and nature emergency impact statement” as part of any proposal for financial assistance under a United Kingdom Internal Market Act.

    On 5 Feb 2020: Craig Mackinlay voted not to call on the Government to develop and implement a plan to eliminate the substantial majority of transport emissions by 2030.

    On 24 Oct 2019: Craig Mackinlay voted against a motion calling on the Government “to rebuild the economy so that it works in the interest of the many, not just handing out rewards to those at the top” and bring forward “a green industrial revolution to decarbonise the economy and boost economic growth”.

    On 18 Jul 2019: Craig Mackinlay voted not to legalise abortion in certain circumstances in Northern Ireland as soon as the act comes into force, not to enable two persons who are not of the same sex to be eligible to form a civil partnership in Northern Ireland and not to make a wide variety of other amendments to the Bill.

    On 30 Nov 2016: Craig Mackinlay voted against an investigation into the contrast between public statements and private actions in the run up to the Iraq war.

    On 20 Jul 2016: Craig Mackinlay voted for cuts in housing benefit for recipients in supported housing.

    On 8 Jun 2016: Craig Mackinlay voted for reductions in benefits for disabled and ill claimants required to participate in activities intended to increase their chances of obtaining work.

    On 27 Oct 2015: Craig Mackinlay voted to reduce the household benefit cap, to freeze the rate of many working-age benefits, to reduce social rents in England and for other changes to the benefits system.

    On 18 Dec 2017: Craig Mackinlay voted to exclude certain overseas elements of UK banking groups from the bank levy annual tax.

    On 6 Sep 2016: Craig Mackinlay voted to increase the personal income tax allowance, change the way dividends are taxed, cut capital gains tax and reduce the amount which can be taken out of a pension tax-free from £1.25m to £1m.

    It is pretty clear where he stands & it isn’t on the side of the average citizen.

    • What a good summary of our MP’s voting record. We need to vote him out at the next election. We can vote Conservative, if we want to. But just not for this UKIPper…sorry, Conservative. The South Thanet Conservative association should take note that it is time look for a new candidate. He is not really interested in representing people. He is self-serving. He stood and failed to get elected in Gillingham and Totnes. He was given to us inSouth Thanet because as an exUKIPper he could beat Nigel Farage. His attitude to feeding schoolchildren during school holidays is despicable. And did you read his excuse? No mention of the school children just that it was a proposal put forward by Labour. Bugger What’s best for the people, let’s play party politics.. Time for him to go.

    • What a sad lonly grey soul you sound like dude, you should cotemplate finding a friend.all that interest makes you sound like a stalker

  5. I wonder what the ultimate iteration is for folk who express the rather simplistic “let’s not feed the hungry during a crisis” angle. If a child falls and breaks their leg should a parent be responsible for fixing that? What if a tsunami strikes a foreign shore, would we blame the victims for building on the coast? Or leave residents on a distant British territory to liberate themselves from an invasion?

  6. If Mr Mckindley children never had food would he vote it down. I dont think so.
    Mr. Mockingly i voted for you with you voting like this. I wish I NEVER NOW.

  7. Like Mackinlay i stood for election in thanet . My reason was to improve various aspects of life in the area, not for ego or money. I met Sharon Goodyer and became a patron of our kitchen. Mackinlay saw what we achieved and nominated sharon a parliamentary award for feeding children during the summer holidays. Last week he choice his party in front of those children and then doubled down. Shame on him

    • He even turned up at the Summer Kitchen for the photo op one evening where Sharon and her team were feeding many local people. Barry, do you remember the ex-soldier who walked with his assistance dog from Ramsgate to Draper’s Mill? I used to pass him on the path as I cycled home. The homeless man with cancer we helped. The Mum we had a whip round to pay her fares home as she’d no money and it was getting dark for a long walk home?

      These people didn’t ask that life didn’t turn out the way they expected,no-one does but a compassionate society steps in to help those less fortunate. It doesn’t ignore them or blame them.

  8. Brilliant column!I hope Mackinlay never falls on hard times and has to worry about how to feed his daughter… oh wait, perhaps I do really… might be good for his moral soul

    • Fortunately not everyone shares Kevin, Barry (not Lewis) and Paul’s views. I’ve just answered my door to a neighbour who has brought food for the St. Peter’s foodbank and another friend messaged me as he wants to make a donation to one of the bodies giving free lunches. I have pointed him in the right direction.

  9. More generalisations, demonising parents. Child benefit is means tested and if a claant is on UC only children born before a certain date are included.

    Fortunately there more people who are compassionate and want to help than condemn families facing difficulties.

  10. and this is what Craig’s wife posted on a FB site about ONE of the admin’s comments. She ignored all the other comments criticising his actions just comments about one admin who hadn’t even critiqued Craig
    Katalin Mackinlay to Barry James
    Barry, I actually don’t read them. This was brought to my attention. When you are in politics you get all sorts, good and bad regardless which side of political spectrum you are.
    We are all entitled to have our own opinion as long as it’s put forward in a decent manner, like many do. What we are not entitled to do however is spreading lies. That’s why I joined in and corrected you.
    But, rather pathetically you just don’t stop… You are coming out with even more lies. I suggest you do your search properly as I do not live in Chatham and I am easily found on Thanet voting register.
    Why don’t I read We love Ramsgate sight anymore? Because it became the Barry James’ chat show filled with hatred, negativity and self-importance. I don’t and will not follow your style I rather choose to surround myself with positivity and decency. Whilst this sight is under your control it will not change I’m afraid.
    Why don’t I leave? Because I hope one day you’ll have the courage to resign as an admin and allow someone to take this ‘role’ on who is independent minded, happy to monitor only, rather than generating or taking part of mostly negative and nasty debates. Someone who will NOT jump down people’s neck for having different views, someone who will follow the original rules rather than making his/her own rules up as pleases him/herself.
    And finally a personal suggestion. Step away from social media time to time, it’s good for your mental health and soul. Good bye!

    • Top duo-one accused of expenses fraud & one of his aides was found guilty of fiddling the books, another of his aides was accused of raping & sexually assaulting a woman in McKinley’s office, but was cleared-he was judged merely to have had sex with her in the office instead-as Bob Dylan said I was only robbin’ the register, I hope you understand.

      The other apparently well known as being a sex pest by all & sundry, especially when drinking-but protected by them & his gimlet eyed wife who was fine with it all as long as the money kept rolling in & whose opinion of his conviction is he behaved badly but these horrible little oiks should of kept their mouths shut like everybody else & the court were out to get him-she is taking the loyal doormat politicians wife routine a bit too far, either that or he has some dirt on her.

  11. The blunt facts are. Child poverty is now out of control in Thanet. It’s almost doubled since the Tories came to power ten years ago. Officially 37% across the Isle and 50% in some wards. Are some parents hopeless? Well yes of course. But these are a tiny minority and those children also need support. The vast number of parents do all that they can to ensure their children are fed, clothed, warm and safe. What the Government have done is failed to ensure wages keep pace with the real cost of living, they’ve failed to build affordable secure accommodation, and despite all the evidence to the contrary introduced benefit rates that are impossible to live on. Universal Credit, low paid employment, insecure work and unemployment drive poverty up. As more people fall sadly, into unemployment, and the figure is predicted to grow much, much, higher, more people have become acutely aware of what poverty actually means and how perilously close they are to it.

    Our children are our future.

    No child should go to bed hungry anywhere, least of all in the 6th richest nation on the planet. Covid has laid these growing inequalities bare for us all to see.

    • Pensioners have not had the heating allowance raised in years and with the removal of the free TV licence for the over 75s, have had to fork out £150 for that.

      Their usual activities have been curtailed so they can’t go there to keep warm and have an inexpensive meal.

      Rising costs and, for some confinement due to being shielded won’t have helped nor will the free Boris Box they received have helped their diet. Whoever got the contract was on to a winner, for them!

  12. Meanwhile the government just gave over 500 million via the Culture Recovery Fund to the arts which will total 1.57 billion-so at least while your kids are starving you can be safe in the knowledge that the Turner Centre which got over 100 grand of money will when it reopens next year be able to keep displaying mostly empty white walls with some trombones fixed to some of it, some Papier-mâché figures, some paintings that look like a 2 year old regurgitated their dinner(the lucky one who had something to eat)on another nearly white empty wall & whatever pretentious twaddle they can find. Who wouldn’t choose to look at Tracey Emin’s dirty bed over being able to eat?

    • Steve


      It’s a shame we dont have ‘like’ buttons so just a ×1 from me 😉

      Its ridiculous who much the arts get.

    • To be fair it was a choice between him & Farage in 2015 & he seemed the slightly less fruitcake option out of them. More disconcerting is he has been voted in twice since.

  13. 3.77 million that bed sold for, just think about that 3.77 million yet the government keeps giving millions to the art sector, could some from that sector please buy my bed I will happily take 1 million.

    • Exactly-Emin is always singing the praises of the Turner, so why don’t she & her art buddies in London, Brighton etc fund it? Of course if any of us just threw a lot of garbage at our bed we would be called disgusting & they would call in the environmental health people, this pretentious twot does it & it is an art masterpiece.

Comments are closed.