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Get out to help out? Chancellor told he’s banned from local pub over school meals vote

Written by on 23/10/2020

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been banned from a pub in his constituency for voting against an extension of free school meals.

Alex Cook, who owns the The Mill pub and its restaurant Il Mulino in North Yorkshire‘s Stokesley, confirmed media reports that he will refuse entry to Mr Sunak and three other Tory MPs because they voted against a proposal to extend the scheme over the holidays amid the coronavirus pandemic.

He told Sky News it was a “personal protest” to permanently ban Mr Sunak, alongside Jacob Young, Simon Clarke and Matt Vickers, from visiting the pub – which falls in the chancellor’s Richmond, Yorks, constituency.

The Mill has barred several MPs from visiting. Pic: Facebook
Image: The Mill has barred several MPs from visiting. Pic: Facebook

Mr Cook: said: “I thought it was the only way I could get people to listen and see how poor the decision is to allow children to go hungry in 2020.

“Anyone with a decent moral compass would realise that for a government that has spent £12bn on a Test and Trace system that doesn’t work, to not fund food for hungry children is ridiculous and can’t be allowed to happen.”

Mr Cook said he and his staff had received lots of “harassing and awful” calls from supporters of Mr Sunak since his decision was first reported.

He insisted the move was made “on principal” and not “in search of publicity”, as some callers had suggested, adding: “It’s not me I’m worried about, but all my staff who work so hard and don’t deserve these calls.”

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Asked for his response to the view that businesses should not punish members of their community for issues relating to their profession, Mr Cook said he would “normally agree” but that he is standing up for his core beliefs.

“If I have upset people by this I genuinely apologise and I do appreciate all that the government has done for me and other businesses during this pandemic, but I had to do this,” he said.

Marcus Rashford MBE
Image: The campaign to extend free school meals was spearheaded by England footballer Marcus Rashford

Along with the harassing phone calls, Mr Cook said he had also received many supporting ones and that he was warmed by how many restaurants in the community had stepped in to provide free food to children.

While he was not aware of Mr Sunak visiting the pub before, he said the chancellor “definitely knows it exists”.

When contacted by Sky News, the chancellor’s office offered no comment.

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‘Is government ganging up on Marcus Rashford?’

The extension of free school meals was heavily defeated in the House of Commons on Wednesday, as Labour failed to gain much support from the Tory benches.

But afterwards, Tory MP Caroline Ansell resigned as a parliamentary private secretary to the environment secretary, saying she “could not in all conscience ignore” her belief that the proposed policy would have benefitted families struggling during the pandemic.

Ms Ansell was one of just five Conservatives to back Labour’s motion, following a campaign led by England and Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford.

Earlier this year, Rashford successfully got the government to U-turn and provide free school meals vouchers to struggling parents through the summer holidays.

But with no sign of the government again reversing its approach, he has now managed to galvanise at least 100 organisations to help fill the void.

Tory MP Caroline Ansell. Pic: UK Parliament
Image: Tory MP Caroline Ansell resigned over the vote. Pic: UK Parliament

Following the voting down of the motion by 322 votes to 261, a Number 10 spokesman said it was not for schools to “regularly provide food during school holidays.”

In the Commons, Prime Minister Boris Johnson resisted calls for a change of stance.

 Sky News

© Sky News 2020

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