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Food, Skewered

No, not kebabs but this week’s school meals scandal. With many children who routinely get free meals at school now being kept at home, provision has been made to maintain the supply of food. For some, school dinner is the most nutritious meal they can rely on each weekday. The contract went to a supplier with links to the Tories and it turned out that very little of the per capita spend was going on food and what was provided was substandard, as illustrated in a picture that was widely shared earlier in the week.

I was disappointed not to see the media making more of the exchange between Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer at yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions session in Parliament. You can watch it online (cued to just after 12 minutes in, when the topic arises). Starmer asks if Johnson would be “… happy with his kids living on that?”. Johnson responds, “… no-one in this house is happy with the disgraceful images that we’ve seen…” and claims that the company in question has been forced to apologise. So far, fifteen all?

Starmer then reads from a current Department of Education guideline, which stipulates what should be in the food packages according to the Government: exactly the paucity that created shocked responses in the original photo. The Prime Minister is demonstrated to be at very least out of touch with his cabinet and unable to get properly briefed. Johnson’s response is aggression and bluster. First he accuses Starmer of hypocrisy (warranting a rebuke from the Speaker of the House). He tries to hold back on personal invective but the rest of his response amounts to little more than ‘well, just remember it was us who started the free school meals scheme’. A decade into Conservative-led government, this is pretty thin; more so when I checked back and determined that the meals seem to have started in 2014, led by Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrat side of the coalition then in power.

Starmer’s performance demonstrates his years of legal experience: well-briefed and using evidence like a razor to expose hypocrisy. Johnson? Very much the opposite and surely this skewering deserves wider comment?

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