Therese Coffey takes on Marcus Rashford in Twitter row on poverty

PUBLISHED: 10:11 16 June 2020 | UPDATED: 14:48 16 June 2020

Therese Coffey has found herself in a Twitter spat with Manchester United and England star Marcus Rashford. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire.

Therese Coffey has found herself in a Twitter spat with Manchester United and England star Marcus Rashford. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire.

PA Wire

Suffolk Coastal MP and cabinet minister Dr Therese Coffey has found herself embroiled in a Twitter row with Manchester United and England striker Marcus Rashford who has found himself in the headlines this week after highlighting child poverty.

The 22-year-old star tweeted early on Tuesday that people who were having a shower today should remember those who had had their water supply cut off during the lockdown.

Dr Coffey, who is work and pensions secretary, replied that water supplies were not being disconnected during the lockdown.

But this has been the only direct government response to Mr Rashford’s concerns about child poverty and his call for food vouchers to continue to be given to the poorest families during the school summer holiday. He drew on his experience of growing up as one of five children to a single mother – and of how he had sometimes gone to bed hungry.

Government ministers have not agreed to continue the food vouchers scheme – which was set up instead of free school meals – and have tried to avoid directly engaging with points made by Mr Rashford, until the Tweet from Dr Coffey.

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In a response to her message, the footballer asked her to put rivalries aside in this case (Dr Coffey has always made it clear she is a keen Liverpool supporter – and they are arch-rivals of Manchester United).

The tweet exchange has been widely picked up. On Good Morning Britain presenter Piers Morgan described Dr Coffey’s Tweet as: “Heartless, devoid of empathy.”

Dr Coffey’s personal phone was being diverted to her constituency office and we were told that she would be told we had called about the exchange.

While there was criticism for Dr Coffey from political opponents, she also came under fire from the world of sport. BT Sport presenter Jake Humphrey said it was a “really bad look, really bad.”

After the storm broke on Twitter, Dr Coffey published more tweets welcoming Marcus Rashford’s concerns about poverty – and putting forward the official government line that it would continue to support the poorest families but did not pay for free meals during summer holidays.

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