MANCHESTER united star Marcus Rashford's campaign to extend a free school meals scheme was rejected yesterday.

The Labour proposal, which would have seen free school meals for 1.3 million vulnerable children over the holidays extended until Easter next year, was defeated by 322 votes to 261.

Of the 322 votes against the proposal, 318 were cast by Conservative MPs including several from Sussex.

The rejection of the campaign sparked backlash from many, including Brighton Kemptown's Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle.

He took to Twitter to share his outrage at the decision, writing: "This evening I voted for free school meals for children during half term.

The Argus:

"Unfortunately, while it was clear we need to stop child hunger during the holidays, the Tories just don’t care."

Mr Rashford's campaign had previously persuaded the government to grant free school meal vouchers for 1.3 million children over the summer holidays during the coronavirus crisis.

As a result, he received an MBE in the recent Queen's Birthday Honours.

But his bid to extend this scheme to spring next year was shot down yesterday.

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The striker addressed the rejection of the bid, tabled by Labour, in a statement.

He said: "Put aside all the noise, the digs, the party politics and let's focus on the reality.

"A significant number of children are going to bed tonight not only hungry but feeling like they do not matter because of comments that have been made today.

"We must stop stigmatising, judging and pointing fingers.

"Our views are being clouded by political affiliation.

"This is not politics, this is humanity.

"We talk about the devastating impact of Covid-19 but, if projections are anything to go by, child food poverty has the potential to become the greatest pandemic this country has ever faced.

"We must start working together and unite to protect our most vulnerable children. No more sticking plasters. Let's face this head on.

"Let's level up once and for all."

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Downing Street ruled out performing a late U-turn ahead of the vote, with Boris Johnson also telling Prime Minister’s Questions: “We support kids on low incomes in school and we will continue to do so.

“But the most important thing is to keep them in school and not tear off into another national lockdown taking them out of school.

“We will continue to use the benefits system and all the systems of income to support children throughout the holidays as well.”

These are the Sussex MPs known to have voted against the continuation of free school meals:

  • Andrew Griffith, Arundel and South Downs, Conservative 
  • Nick Gibb, Bognor Regis and Littlehampton, Conservative 
  • Gillian Keegan, Chichester, Conservative - 
  • Henry Smith, Crawley, Conservative 
  • Jeremy Quin, Horsham, Conservative 
  • Mims Davies, Mid Sussex, Conservative 
  • Peter Bottomley, Worthing West, Conservative 
  • Huw Merriman, Bexhill and Battle, Conservative 
  • Sall-Ann Hart, Hastings and Rye, Conservative
  • Maria Caulfield, Lewes, Conservative 
  • Nus Ghani, Wealden, Conservative 

These are the Sussex MPs known to have voted in support of free school meals:

  • Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Brighton Kemptown, Labour 
  • Caroline Lucas, Brighton Pavilion, Green 
  • Peter Kyle, Hove and Portslade, Labour 
  • Caroline Ansell, Eastbourne, Conservative