Suffolk MP Therese Coffey tackles Marcus Rashford in Twitter row on poverty
PUBLISHED: 14:49 16 June 2020 | UPDATED: 17:58 16 June 2020
Suffolk Coastal MP and cabinet minister Dr Therese Coffey found herself in a Twitter row with England striker Marcus Rashford in the hours before the government performed its u-turn on free school meals for the poorest children.
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.
At the time this was the only direct government response to Mr Rashford’s concerns about child poverty. 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.
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).
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The tweet exchange was widely picked up. On Good Morning Britain presenter Piers Morgan described Dr Coffey’s Tweet as: “Heartless, devoid of empathy.”
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.”
Amid the backlash, Ms Coffey tweeted a further message, saying she welcomed Rashford’s “passion” for supporting children and the most vulnerable in society, adding it was “a passion we share. I and this government will continue to actively help and support families and businesses through this emergency and beyond.”
And she later issued a statement saying: “As I explained in my further tweets to Marcus Rashford, I welcome his passion for supporting children and the most vulnerable in society - a passion we share.
“Recognising the emergency situation we are enduring, we have already given substantial financial support to councils, families and businesses to help people through this difficult time and will continue to support the most vulnerable.
“If any constituent is having difficulty with utility suppliers or other similar issues, I encourage them to contact me directly or get support from Citizens Advice Bureau.”
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