Marcus Rashford row dubbed ‘terrible indictment of UK’ as peer fumes at Boris Johnson | UK | News (Reports)

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The Manchester United forward has inspired many with his campaign in recent months. Last night, his petition for free meals for deprived school children surpassed one million signatures as he scored a hat-trick in the Champions League against German side RB Leipzig. Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said: “Marcus has showed he can keep focusing on what’s important on and off the pitch at the moment. He did really well today coming off the bench.”

The England international also caught the eye on social media, tweeting: “On a serious note though, what is virtue signalling?”

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Labour peer Lord Peter Hain tells Express.co.uk that Mr Rashford’s work is commendable, but the fact that children in the country are still going hungry is a “terrible indictment of the UK”.

He said: “It’s been inspiring first of all because it is unusual for sports stars of his stature to speak out in this way, and to do so not in a political party sense but to take on the Government.

“He won the first time round, and I suspect during the winter there will be another arrangement.”

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Earlier this year, Mr Rashford forced Prime Minister Boris Johnson into a U-turn over the issue of free school meals.

However, so far Mr Johnson has rejected calls for another reversal.

Last week, the Labour Party’s Opposition Day motion was voted down, and Mr Johnson later said the “best way of tackling holiday hunger” is to give money to councils, not the £15-a-week voucher scheme.

Lord Hain added: “We are in a terrible state, the kids haven’t got food on their table. It’s a terrible indictment of where we have got to.”

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Currently, more than 1.4 million children benefit from free school meals. Nearly 900,000 eligible children live in areas now subject to Tier 2 and Tier 3 COVID-19 restrictions.

While relative child poverty rates have remained stable over recent years, there are now 4.2 million children living in poverty – 600,000 more than in 2012.

A Government’s Social Mobility Commission report also estimated this year that child poverty rates are projected to increase to 5.2 million by 2022.

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