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25 October 2020 08:40

Ben Bradley Brexit Krishnan Guru-Murthy

Pressure is mounting on Ben Bradley to apologise for a Twitter tirade in which the Conservative MP was accused of linking free school meals with "crack dens" and "brothels". Bradley, who this week voted against extending free school meals for deprived children during the holidays until Easter 2021, said the since-deleted post had been taken out of context. In it, he wrote: "At one school in Mansfield 75% of kids have a social worker, 25% of parents are illiterate. Bradley then replied to a tweet in which another user said "£20 cash direct to a crack den and brothel really sounds like way forward with this one", writing: "That's what FSM vouchers in the summer effectively did …" It comes as the Conservative MP for Bournemouth East, Tobias Ellwood, appeared to come out in support of free school meals provision over school holidays on Saturday. The deputy Labour leader, Angela Rayner, said: "Notwithstanding the fact that the vouchers in summer could only be used to purchase food, this stigmatisation of working-class families is disgraceful and disgusting." The shadow children's minister, Tulip Siddiq, has written to the co-chair of the Conservative party, Amanda Milling, saying: "I am sure that you will want to make clear that this kind of crass stigmatisation of children from poorer families is deeply damaging, and distance yourself from Mr Bradley's misleading and troubling comments.

"In the meantime, I respectfully ask you to request an apology from Mr Bradley to the millions of children from lower-income households who benefit from free school meal support." He told BBC Breakfast on Saturday: "I was merely making the point that there are kids who live in really chaotic situations, really difficult lives, where actually giving them an unrestricted voucher to spend on whatever isn't helpful. That's why government has given that money to local government because they are best placed working with social services, working with schools to be able to find those families, to target them, to help them in a more holistic way than meal vouchers." A vote, backed by Labour, to offer free school meals to children during half-term was defeated by 322 votes to 261 on Wednesday. Bradley, who became the MP for former Labour heartland Mansfield in 2017, posted consecutive tweets on Friday defending his stance on the motion. The MP, who attracted criticism in 2018 over an unearthed 2012 blogpost in which he suggested unemployed "wasters" should have vasectomies to stop them having multiple children, has also locked horns with Marcus Rashford, the England and Manchester striker who launched the FSM campaign. Bradley, who said he voted "to target funding more closely at those most in need", invited Rashford to visit "one of the country's most deprived schools" in his constituency to discuss the idea with its headteacher.

The post said: "We know the truth about families who qualify for free school meals and it is nothing like what he suggests. Selaine Saxby, the Tory MP for North Devon, also sparked anger over comments she made about local businesses giving food away for free. Ben Bradley defends 'crack den' tweets as another Tory MP derides restaurants covering free school meals As Ben Bradley sought to defuse the row over his remarks, his Tory colleague Selaine Saxby appeared to criticise local businesses for offering free meals to needy children Conservative MP Ben Bradley has denied suggesting that free school meal vouchers were "effectively" used by families for crack dens and brothels, while his colleague Selaine Saxby suggested businesses offering to cover free meals for needy children should no longer get government support. Mr Bradley, the MP for Mansfield tweeted the remark on Friday in opposition to Marcus Rashford's campaign to get the vouchers, handed out to help feed vulnerable children over the summer holidays, extended during all school breaks while the pandemic is ongoing. In a series of since-deleted posts on the social media platform, he wrote: "At one school in Mansfield 75 per cent of kids have a social worker, 25 per cent of parents are illiterate.

One Twitter user replied to him: "£20 cash direct to a crack den and brothel really sounds like the way forward with this one…" Mr Bradley responded: "That's what FSM vouchers in the summer effectively did…" Appearing on BBC Breakfast on Saturday morning following a backlash from the public, Labour and some Tory MPs who accused him of stigmatising working class families, Mr Bradley said the remarks had been taken out of context. Mr Bradley added that "not everything has to come from central Government" and local communities also had a duty to support to their most vulnerable members. A Conservative MP has said that free school meals are effectively a direct payment to brothels and drug dealers. Notwithstanding the fact that the vouchers in summer could only be used to purchase food, this stigmatisation of working class families is disgraceful and disgusting. Speaking about the vote on free school meals, that was overwhelmingly voted down by the Conservatives, he said: "It wasn't a vote on Wednesday of 'do we or do we not help kids', what we've done is put a billion pounds on to local Government this week to help them to target the most vulnerable families and help perhaps more precisely and more directly those most in need.

Another Tory MP, Selaine Saxby, is also claiming she was taken "out of context" amid a row over social media posts. In a since-removed Facebook post, the North Devon MP targeted local businesses that had offered to step in to provide free school meals. She wrote: "I am delighted our local businesses have bounced back so much after lockdown they are able to give away food for free, and very much hope they will not be seeking any further government support." Now Tory MP @SelaineSaxby is claiming that any businesses giving free food to hungry kids should be ineligible for government support as they clearly don't need it #FreeSchoolMeals pic.twitter.com/zCLXhp0Mbd — Ian Fraser (@Ian_Fraser) October 24, 2020 In a statement on Twitter the MP wrote: "The portrayal of my recent comments on social media, out of context, does not accurately convey my views – I of course deeply regret any offence which may have been caused. Three Conservative MPs have sparked outrage with social media posts about the debate over free school meals. On Wednesday MPs rejected a Labour motion, inspired by footballer Marcus Rashford's campaign, to extend the free school meals scheme until Easter 2021. Tory MPs who have taken to social media to defend voting against the motion have found themselves in the firing line. Ben Bradley, who represents Mansfield, denied accusations of stigmatising working class families in his response to a tweet describing the free school meals programme "£20 cash direct to a crack den and a brothel". In a post which has since been removed, he wrote: "That's what FSM vouchers in the summer effectively did…" After Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner accused him of stigmatising working class families, Mr Bradley claimed his tweet had been taken "completely out of context". He told BBC Breakfast: "I was merely making the point that there are kids who live in really chaotic situations, really difficult lives, where actually giving them an unrestricted voucher to spend on whatever isn't helpful." Tory MP for North Devon Selaine Saxby also ignited anger after commenting on local businesses giving free food away to those in need. A screenshot of a since-removed post in her name on Facebook said: "I am delighted our local businesses have bounced back so much after lockdown they are able to give away food for free, and very much hope they will not be seeking any further government support." A CONSERVATIVE MP has sparked fury on Twitter after apparently suggesting that vouchers given to feed school children over the summer holidays "effectively" handed cash directly to "crack dens and brothels". Ben Bradley, who represents the English constituency of Mansfield, reportedly made the comments after posting about how Labour's free school meals motion wouldn't have helped those most in need. The MP tweeted a thread which began: "At one school in #Mansfield 75% of kids have a social worker, 25% of parents are illiterate. One kid lives in a crack den, another in a brothel. "These are the kids that most need our help, extending #FSM [free school meals] doesn't reach these kids." READ MORE: Douglas Ross's free school meals tweet comes back to haunt him after Commons vote Someone with the Twitter handle "tryinmybestest" replied to Bradley, saying: "£20 cash direct to a crack den and brothel really sounds like the way forward with this one …" According to screenshots, the Conservative MP directly replied to this, saying: "That's what FSM vouchers in the summer effectively did …" Commenting, Labour's deputy leader Angela Rayner said: "A Conservative MP has said that free school meals are effectively a direct payment to brothels and drug dealers. "Notwithstanding the fact that the vouchers in summer could only be used to purchase food, this stigmatisation of working class families is disgraceful and disgusting." READ MORE: Pubs and cafes step in after Tories reject Marcus Rashford's school meals campaign The Mansfield MP is also chair of the Blue Collar Conservatives, a group of Tory MPs who identify as working class.