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Growing Tory anger about education policy could threaten the PM’s leadership, says Katy Balls

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16.01.2021

When Boris Johnson faced Keir Starmer this week in the first Prime Minister’s Questions of the year, he attempted to put the Labour leader in his place by saying the footballer Marcus Rashford was the better leader of the opposition.

After the Government’s free school meals programme came under fire yet again – this time over meagre food parcels – Johnson said he was grateful to the Manchester United star for highlighting problems with the scheme – thereby “quite an effective job by comparison” to Starmer on holding the Government to account.

While the Prime Minister was clearly pleased with himself over the comment, it’s his MPs who are less impressed. The issue that has led to the most animated debate in the Tory party this week is not Covid or issues with the Brexit deal; it’s education.

How to apply for school meals vouchers: What’s happening at half-term and food parcels controversy explained

This began when Rashford – who has been campaigning on the issue of child poverty for months – took to social media to share pictures of sub-par “hampers” that had been handed to families eligible for free school meals to provide kids’ lunches during lockdown. Photos of poorly sliced vegetables and minimal food portions quickly spread online as angry parents and users pointed out the offering didn’t look anywhere near the promised £30 worth of food.

It wasn’t long before this anger spread to the parliamentary party. “There’s........

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