Opinion with South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay: Those best placed to recognise and target help to struggling families

Craig Mackinlay

We all like things for free. The Opposition Day debate of last week, always designed to be purely Party political, has caused an outpouring of opinions, and abuse, not helped by the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Angela Rayner, calling a new mild-mannered Conservative colleague ‘Tory Scum’ across the Chamber.

We’ve all subsequently faced a new wave of hate mail since with some colleagues having their offices attacked and death threats made. This is not acceptable. 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. When we were in opposition we had the same opportunities. For reasons of party politics, they are usually opposed, that is the nature of the game for good or ill. Stepping back from the party political games it is the role of government to propose legislation and make spending plans, not the role of the opposition to take control of the public purse on the basis of a few lines of well-meaning text.

That said, I welcome any debate on the role of the state and the extent and complexities of the benefits system. Should the state pay for an increasing variety of free stuff or allow people to make their own decisions? This is the core question.

Universal credit, the new heart of the benefits system, has stood up well in the face of hundreds of thousands of new claimants during the Covid crisis. The old legacy benefits which could have up to six underlying claims, each requiring application and assessment could never have delivered the volume of new claims with such speed and efficiency. Reflecting the Covid crisis Universal Credit rates were increased by £20 per week.

The truth often lost in the fizz of social media is that the government has increased benefits, given more to Kent County Council and our second-tier authorities of Thanet and Dover to provide additional welfare support to their communities. KCC for instance received a particular grant under the Local Authority welfare Assistance Fund of £1.67 million. Thanet District Council has so far been awarded £3.1m extra and Dover DC £2.39m in additional funding to cope with the crisis. Community groups have also received direct funding.

We can additionally have a debate about the issue of Free School Meals (FSM). Some think the vote was to stop them last week. This could not be further from the truth. Of course they are continuing in the same form, indeed extended in many cases beyond what Labour thought was an adequate and decent provision during their years in government across 1997-2010.

The debate is now about provision outside of school time. Is it the role of the state, 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 only positive point about them is that they have the benefit of universality.

I would far prefer an extension of funding to groups like Sharon Goodyer’s ‘Kitchen on the Isle of Thanet’ providing good food to communities they know. I can foresee an extension of funding to councils and community groups coming down the track – these are best placed to recognise and target help to struggling families. Always easy to say all this is ‘free’, far from it as Government spending is now far in excess of tax being collected.

My work on the Public Accounts Committee has afforded detailed insights into new areas. A recent workstream has been looking into the provision and use of cash – the physical real stuff. Hugely relevant as banks continue branch closures and free ATM provision diminishes. Covid has changed spending habits rapidly further reducing physical cash use. I’d be interested to receive thoughts from you on this topic as there are huge differentials and views across the age spectrum.

I was pleased to join a live animal export protest in Ramsgate last week. With Brexit talks approaching some kind of conclusion, whether with a new free-trade deal or not, this issue will climb up the political ladder. I am making enquiries of Ministers as to how this foul trade can finally be stopped and what legislation is downstream to effect this at the soonest opportunity.

Keep safe and well.


  1. Typical patronising response from an MP all the more happy to use tax payers money when it comes to feeding his own face.

    MPs received a £10,000 bonus at the start of the pandemic for reasons best known to them.

    Next, MPs received a pay rise of £3,300.

    Mackinlay has taken over £30,000 in expenses of which just £3,000 goes toward staffing costs.

    MPs also get subsidized food and drink in the HoC.

    Despite this Mackinlay has the brass neck to preach financial responsibilty when his government wasted £12 BILLION pounds on a failing track and trace system while other countries manage an effective system for around £10 million. There is also giving money to hedge funds to source the wrong PPE. That was another £150 million.

    The government will fund any Tarquin millions while depriving vulnerable, at risk children a meal in the middle of a global pandemic.

    Just what are we getting for the money Mr Mackinlay? Your team already has form for fraud.

    This is not good enough.

  2. So in a nutshell, Craig is promoting poor houses. Places where people go to be fed, what he doesn’t realise is the shame people feel for having to go to soup kitchens and food banks (which have are in their thousands now following 10 years of Tory rule).
    The funding he mentions that goes to the local authorities is now spread thinner as more families lose their jobs and are thrust into benefits. There is a five week wait and any advance then has to be paid back at a higher rate than any bank loan. People who could cover their costs are now finding benefits doesn’t stretch that far and are now in debt as they can’t get out of contracts without paying stiff penalties.
    Now is the time to seriously think about a basic income for all. We can afford to increase the national debt to cover failed ppe and millions on a track and trace system which failed. Other countries have far cheaper systems and their economies are doing far better yet we can’t extend the scheme for a few weeks in the holidays as we go into a second wave and the inevitable collapse of businesses following Brexit. These kids are our future.

    • Amazed he isn’t pushing for the workhouses to be bought back, we all know who would be first in line to whip those ‘slacking off’

  3. Please don’t make lame and callous excuses for your government’s failures by criticising the opposition as do most of your parliamentary colleagues. It’s their job to oppose – it’s not their fault we are in the mess your government has caused through its mismanagement of the Covid crisis. You show little interest in how many people in Thanet are suffering even more than usual through this incompetence.

    • Oh no yet another individual hiding behind a pseudonym. Oh wait a minute is that Margaret Symonds that well known wannabe Labour Council Candidate who never seems to get elected?

  4. Craig, as a patron of our kitchen in thanet . I gave some of my time and money to kickstart the project. I wanted it to be cross party, we have to be .so i was surprised that you put your party before the children of thanet

    • I’m surprised that you were surprised, Barry, considering that the man is a hapless and heartless prat.

      • Marva, i do not play party politics and avoid personal attacks on my personal attacks on my political opponents. Craig has supported our kitchen and wrongly I thought he understood it was not logical if some children need free school meals during term time the same children need free school meals during the holidays. Your comments about Mackinlay might be true but its not my way of doing politics, but that’does not mean you are wrong

  5. The reason you have this bloke as your MP is because the voters had no choice. Labours front bench at the last election were unelectable. This MP must thank his lucky stars every day that he is not with his mate Charlie Elphicke EX MP in prison. It was only because the jury must have been deaf blind or all Tories that he got away with election fraud. There is another oven ready fraudster in 10 Downing Street.

    • Well they did have a choice… There were at least 3 other candidates at the general election.

      Top tip: You’re known by the company you keep, Mackinlay’s election agent was convicted for fraud, his mate Charlie convicted of sexual assault…

    • Whether she was a convenient & dispensable fall-guy or he & the others were duped by her, it does seem odd that even during a very busy campaign to defeat Farage a highly intelligent man & qualified chartered accountant would just be signing anything put in front of him & showing zero interest on whether or not rules on spending were being broken.

  6. I did not vote for you and whilst I disagree with threatening behaviour you must understand that it stems from a feeling of helplessness from many people in your constituency. Their voices are not heard while it appears that if it generates a photo opportunity for you then you are quick to jump on board. My understanding is that an MP is meant to represent their constituents and sadly you and Mr Gale appear not to give a toss about them

  7. Matthew. His agent was convicted of conspiracy to defraud. McKinley is the only person who benefited from that fraud yet he was found not guilty. The conservatives threw everything at Thanet South to block Farage. Mind you he would have been no better. They are all tarred to the same brush.

  8. CMK-we all like things for free. Yep-like your 2015 expenses fiasco that saw one of your aides convicted of fraud.

    A Conservative party official has been found guilty of falsifying election expenses after becoming “carried away by her conviction” that the party must defeat Nigel Farage in the 2015 general election.

    Marion Little was convicted on Wednesday of two counts of intentionally encouraging or assisting an offence at Southwark crown court.

    At the same trial, the Conservative MP Craig Mackinlay was cleared of breaking electoral spending laws when he fought to win the race against Farage, then Ukip leader, for the Kent seat of South Thanet.

    Little and Mackinlay were accused of being part of a group of Tory activists who spent twice the legal limit in election expenses on staffing, hotels and advertising.

    Sentencing Little, the judge Mr Justice Edis accused Conservative party headquarters of “a culture of convenient self-deception” and “inadequate supervision” which allowed Little to break the law.

    “Mrs Little acted dishonestly by preparing [election] returns she knew were not completed nor accurate,” he said. She has received a nine-month suspended sentence and fined £5,000.

    Edis said Little falsified documents then presented them to Mackinlay and his election agent Nathan Gray for signing, which “they did so in good faith not knowing what she had done”.

    The judge said she was “carried away by her conviction” that defeating Farage was an “overwhelmingly important political objective”.

    Election campaigners and Farage criticised the fine and suspended sentence, saying it would encourage bigger parties to continue to break election laws.

    The prosecution had alleged that Mackinlay, Little and Gray had knowingly filed “woefully inaccurate” expenditure returns that included a forged signature as they faced the rising challenge of Ukip in South Thanet.

    Declared spending on the campaign came in under the strict £52,000 limit, but prosecutors alleged up to £66,600 more was spent on staffing, accommodation, advertising, posters and a bus for Mackinlay’s campaign which was not declared.

    • Seeing as it wasnt a fair election because the Tories over spent and than tried to hide it. Why wasnt it null n void and another election held after he won the vote by cheating ? He cheated his way into being an MP.

      • Hadn’t Farage moved onto other things by then? Anyway, by the time it eventually got to trial in 2018 MacKinlay had won another election by a landslide in 2017.

  9. “We have all had abuse hurled at us” so when you send your wife to hurl abuse at an admin on “We Love Ramsgate” simply because all 4 admins allowed people to debate the fact that you voted for the status quo instead of supporting children in need at half term and xmas what do you call that Craig?

  10. Mr Mackinlay please stop with this line of response it is defensive and divisive, it’s making things worse. Your constituents have made it clear what they think of your vote. Here is your opportunity to listen and respond to their needs and to show empathy for the most vulnerable in your constituency. Please have the courage and humanity to stand up to your party’s cruel response to a national crisis. Be better, show leadership.

  11. Dear Craig,

    As I have said many times in the past two wrongs never make a right.
    Angela Rayner was wrong and admitted so and the speaker admonished her for it, so I think using Angela as an excuse of the inexcusable is not valid.
    Yes, trolls are awful and no there is no excuse for their behaviour, but yet again that does not excuse the inexcusable.
    I would remind you, that a self styled patriot killed a labour MP during the referendum and that several Labour MP’s have been assaulted and serious injuries inflicted upon them, but that is no excuse for the nasties trolling you.
    If you are a woman,or within an ethnic minority you will be targeted by every loony tune in the area. Rosie Duffield in a nearby constituency receives regular abuse. Diane Abbott,with whom I disagree most profoundly has had to endure, the most despicable of personal attacks from critics, but none of this excuses personal attacks on you or your colleagues.
    None of this excuses you from the charge of moral bankruptcy, you failed in your duty to the poorest in society, when you had the power to do right by them.
    The worst part of this is when you inferred that had supported the children of Thanet, when clearly you did no such thing. That was reprehensible.
    Asking local govt to stump up the cash, fails to take account of the fact that they have already used up the money. Ask Warwickshire, a conservative led council.Your colleague in N.Devon actually berated businesses from helping out, saying that they should not ask from assistance from Govt in future.
    Craig, you are out of touch and only doing yourself and your cause more harm from continuing on this line of response.
    This is criticism not personal abuse, please read it and think carefully before saying any more on this subject.

  12. Craig,

    As a party you misread the nation. You got in on divisive polices and you believed you would be able to use terms like “crack dens” in response to these vouchers and you all failed. Voters in droves are turning from your party. You are failing. My advice is to stop this constant nonsense of blaming Labour. You have the power. It does not matter how it got to vote. You and your party turned hunger to politics. You should have stepped up first. Thanet is sick of you. You have failed local disabled children over over over and over with frankly an almost arrogant swagger and now you are failing disadvantaged children.

    Stop playing politic point scoring with the lowest common dominator by labelling anyone that needs help – scrounging – they aren’t….

    We are fed up with you and your outdated backward opinions.

    You have time to turn this around but get some empathy and humility to your behaviour – you have brought shame on Thanet. We will not forget. This is not why we elected you.

  13. Craig, does Robert Jenrick know that you’ve been contributing to local newspapers? Judging by his foreword in the Planning for the Future white paper, he seems determined to put all local newspapers and libraries out of action.

  14. Not one comment in support of this shameful attempt to change narrative by Craig. We are all bored of your parties smoke and mirrors approach to all the major issues.

    The tide has turned. The mess you’ve made of Covid and a oven ready deal that never made it into the oven.

    Lies lies and more lies.

  15. Has Craig ever had the attention of the Speaker turned upon him?
    Like during a Manston debate, and he “forgot” he was Director of an aviation company?

  16. The thing is Craig, you just sound defensive.

    What I cannot understand is what Craig does actually support in South Thanet aside from his unhealthy obsession with aviation and his enjoyment of slagging off Londoners and housing development and anyone who disagrees with him.

    With no viable alternative nationally or locally this was, and is, an easy set for any Tory. Even this Tory who is really a Kipper.

  17. A couple both 35 (with 2 children (5 and 7)) neither of whom work, Renting a 2 bed property in cliftonville for 650 pcm. All in good health (ie no disability benefits) . Total entitlement from the state will be £406.29 a week, not a kings ransom but hardly a pittance.
    They can pretty well choose not to pay for their water ( the system is set up So that water companies recover the cost of non payers from those that do. It equates to an additional 800 million a year bung to those that don’t pay). Roughly 10% of water bills are unpaid by the user.

    There would be a small contribution to council tax and again this can be effectively ignored , the council will write endless letters but not do much more.

    Other Entitlements that may be applicable.

    Local welfare fund
    Funeral Payment
    Free Prescriptions and Eye Tests
    NHS Low Income Scheme
    Home Improvements Grants
    Discretionary Housing Payment
    Warm Homes Discount
    Cold Weather Payments

    Money is one of the things that motivates some in society, a local school has their family welfare/liaison staff knock on doors to wake up parents that can’t be bothered to get their kids to school. Fines for non attendance have been found to be very effective at improving attendance. Lunch boxes containing only half a packet of biscuits or part of a cold takeaway burger have been found. Some kids share a toothbrush.

    For some cigarettes and alcohol are more important the than feeding the kids.

    How much money do you give the irresponsible / lazy?

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