Great Britain

Why do our elected representatives not think for themselves?

Boris Johnson has indeed dropped another clanger over free school meals in the holidays but I blame the MPs. Why do our elected representatives not think for themselves?

The failure to back Marcus Rashford over extending free school meals is just the latest calamity of many that have dogged successive Tory governments since 2015. This would also have been the story of the Cameron-led coalition government if it wasn’t for the Liberal Democrats acting as a steadying hand.

Indeed, where the Lib Dems really let the country down has long since become apparent – it was in making the Tories look competent.

Sasha Simic (Letters, 26 October) reminds us: "Three hundred and twenty-two Tory MPs voted to deny poor children free school meals during the holidays”. This includes my MP. I don’t think many voters will need reminding, at the next opportunity, to bite the hands of those who didn’t feed them.

Just a week ago, Boris Johnson and his team were adamant that control should not be in the hands of local authorities. Now it seems they are more than happy to pass the supplying of free school meals programmes to those same authorities.

It has dawned on some of these MPs that they may have misjudged the mood of the public. What a jaw-droppingly arrogant comment. A compassionate government does not need to rely on public mood in order to provide for the poorest in our communities.

I wonder if Johnson and his team will still be misjudging that mood in four years’ time?

Having discovered that one of the Tory MPs who voted to deny free school meals to hungry children is a trustee of the charity Feeding Britain, I wrote to them, and to their president, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to suggest that her actions had brought the charity into disrepute, and that she should be asked to stand down.

I was astonished to receive an email from Lambeth Palace, which stated: “As president of Feeding Britain, the Archbishop of Canterbury has no direct responsibility or oversight for the appointment of trustees of Feeding Britain.”  

Clearly being a president carries no moral authority whatsoever. While this MP remains on the board, I am not minded to donate to them. And my respect for the archbishop has diminished considerably.

Divide and don’t rule

James Mitchell, professor of public policy at Edinburgh University, tells us that: “The SNP looks to me like a political party that needs to have a period in opposition.” Amen to that. But how likely is it when the opposition is weak? The opposition is particularly weak because it is divided. Yet the Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative Party leaders will not accept the old dictum that, if they don’t hang together, they will hang separately.

These three parties have looked weak after elections because they have fought each other rather than fighting their common existential enemy, the SNP. The seats they have won at Holyrood do not reflect the votes they have commanded, which have consistently been around 55 per cent of the total cast. The SNP gained its “landslide victory” in 2011 on the votes of 22.5 per cent of the electorate (45 per cent on a 50 per cent turnout). In 2016, the turnout was 55 per cent, as was the pro-union parties’ share of the vote. But they remain a scattered opposition.

It is now time for the Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative parties to put aside their differences for the important election coming up next May. If they could, for example, join to put their combined forces behind the Labour candidate in Edinburgh Southern, the Liberal Democrat in Edinburgh Western and the Conservative in Edinburgh Central, and replicate that across the country, they could see off the SNP.

As it is, the only party that has any vision of a united pro-union force at present is George Galloway’s Alliance4Unity, which brings together unlikely allies from different parts of the political spectrum.

Come on, Richard Leonard, Douglas Ross and Willie Rennie! Start putting the good of our country ahead of your narrow party interests. If you don’t, you will be crushed by the SNP juggernaut.

Hung out to dry

There are now a number of social media people, often amusingly labelled as celebrities or influencers, who are wearing anti-Covid lockdown T-shirts with the expectation that the government will change their plans because of this.

Any advice or suggestions should only come from medical experts and not keyboard warriors or T-shirt twits.

Melbourne, Australia  

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