ONE of the most admirable things, among the multiple admirable things, about Marcus Rashford's holiday hunger campaigning is that it has been entirely non-partisan.

Very carefully, the Manchester United footballer has avoided sides and party politics and stuck decently to the core purpose of his campaign. That is, the very simple moral imperative that hungry children should be fed.

And now, more than ever, is the time for that message to be shared. Not only has the coronavirus exacerbated and emphasised the issue of poverty, it has also motivated a desire - born of a widespread feeling of powerlessness - to do something about it.

The problem might be more pronounced but so is the goodwill to repair it. Yes, a fatigue has crept in. Frustration has crept in. But the sense that a better tomorrow can be crafted from this awful today, the same sense that urged citizens to clap for carers and propelled neighbours to shop for neighbours, still exists.

So the Conservatives surely, surely must have known that to vote against the holiday feeding scheme - a proposal that would have cost relatively little and been no long term commitment - was going to be ill received.

A proposal backed by a spectrum ranging from Momentum on the left to Nigel Farage on the right, is surely one the government can whisk through without much bother. Loath as I might be to quote Mr Farage, he does bang the nail on the head.

"If the government can subsidise Eat Out to Help Out," he said, "Not being seen to give poor kids lunch in the school holidays looks mean and is wrong."

The wrongness felt even more grave when glancing at the list of those who voted against. Vicky Ford MP, the children's minister. Jo Gideon MP, a trustee of Feeding Britain.

Fiona Bruce MP, member for Congleton and a vocal, committed Christian also seemed content to let the little children suffer.

Selaine Saxby MP, trained to be a teacher - surely her conscience is unsettled, thinking of how negatively affected children's learning is when hunger is a distraction? Perhaps she thinks that in the holidays, outwith school, good nutrition matters less.

Conservative politicians arguments against the free meal opposition day motion felt dizzyingly retro. "I do not believe in nationalising children," Brendan Clarke-Smith blustered incomprehensibly before saying parents should be encouraged to "take responsibility". As a final non sequitur he added "This means less celebrity virtue signalling on Twitter by proxy".

Come again? Gary Lineker had booted BBC impartiality to the side to tweet in support of Mr Rashford. Is that the proxy virtue signalling? Is Mr Clarke-Smith suggesting the football pundit bears some responsibility for jobless parents?

Did anyone else from the Tory benches have anything reasonable to say? Well, Ben Bradley similarly worries about encouraging parents to become dependent on the state.

"Some parents are not good parents," he tweeted, "And prioritise other things ahead of their kids."

For this, on Twitter, he received pelters. Sadly, the man is correct. There are parents who are not good parents. There are parents who prioritise other things ahead of their kids.

Where Mr Bradley's argument falls down is that it suggests the children of such parents are to blame. When parents are variously out of work, forced into poverty, vulnerable, struggling with addiction, mental health issues or any of the varying issues that can have a devastating effect on a household, there children should not be punished.

He would, though, argue that the Tories have given a £20-a-week uplift to tax credits and income support. Fine, but this ceases in April next year, leaving those recipients worse off.

He would argue that the best way to ensure families have no need of holiday feeding programmes is to lift them out of poverty entirely. Absolutely, but in the meantime do parents feed their children policy proposals for dinner?

The Trussell Trust has reported a marked rise in food bank use due directly to the implementation of this government's Universal Credit. The five week gap between application and first payment has pushed thousands more families to food banks in an attempt to bridge the gap.

This week I spoke to baby banks in Glasgow who told me they are each receiving as many as 15 calls a day from families in need of formula milk. Food banks follow UNICEF guidelines to promote breastfeeding and so do not give out formula milk, they refer on elsewhere, and so the baby banks are the only source of support.

I was told of mothers watering down the formula to make the tin last longer. A reader responded to the story to say the only other time she'd come across this was when working in a refugee camp in South Sudan. But here we are in Britain in 2020. This, also, is in Scotland, where the government has extended the holiday feeding programme and is topping up benefit payments.

These babies, then, are relatively fortunate.

Of course, in the immediate response to Wednesday evening's vote, community groups, local businesses and concerned individuals all stepped forward to offer what they could. One, the Whitley Bait Sandwich and Coffee Bar, was a fine example of the genre, offering a free packed lunch "never with questions or judgement" to any child who needs it. "It really," the business's Facebook post added, "does take a village to raise a child."

It does, absolutely. And to return to football clubs - during the pandemic the Celtic FC Foundation launched a food bank partnership. Rangers FC last year held a food bank drive. Football clubs across the board have long supported charity fundraising and have, during this crisis, mobilised their fans towards helping social causes.

The football supporting portion of the electorate cannot be a small one and it doubtless will not forget the injustice done, both to one of its young heroes and to hungry children.

But, while it is admirable and heartening that so many wish to help, we cannot normalise the repeated situation of charity and individual kindness relieving the state's responsibility.

It cannot become normal that Boris Johnson, who didn't know the price of a loaf of bread, boasts of knowing the price of Champagne. It cannot be normal that Tory ministers who balk at feeding hungry children eat state subsidised pressed duck leg and caper terrine in the Members' Dining Room.

This is yet another shameful move from a government replete with shameful moves. On Wednesday a clip from a Channel 4 Dispatches programme, Britain's Breadline Kids, was going viral. Cameron, a young schoolboy, spoke directly to the camera, "We try not to eat a lot in one day even though most of us are really hungry."

There's who you voted against. From the mouths of babes.

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