“Margaret Thatcher, milk snatcher!” was the oft-sung phrase chanted while the Conservative prime minister ruled the U.K. in the eighties. Cutting school lunches were part and parcel of her decade-long rule that saw rabid right-wing policies devastate the country’s working class.
Twenty-seven years later, incumbent Prime Minister Theresa May, often compared to Thatcher since taking office after her predecessor David Cameron stepped down last summer, is treading the same path: scrapping free hot school lunches for primary school children.
When probed by media Thursday, May said, "Margaret Thatcher was a Conservative, I am a Conservative, this is a Conservative manifesto."
She later added: "There is no Mayism. There is good solid Conservatism, which puts the interests of the country and the interests of ordinary working people at the heart of everything we do in government."
The announcement about school meals came Thursday as the Conservatives announced their platform ahead of the June elections. While they are set to scrap school lunches, they have offered a breakfast program instead — which opposition leaders say will reach fewer students than the lunch program.
Nick Clegg, the former Liberal Democrat leader and architect of the free lunches policy as deputy prime minister in the Coalition government three years ago, called the move “cynical.”
What? Scrap free meals for infants and splurge money on selection instead? Clearest sign of the sour, mean Conservative government to come.— Nick Clegg (@nick_clegg) May 18, 2017
“Free infant lunches policy was saving millions of struggling families over 450 pounds. Breakfasts covers fewer children. Cheaper for govt. Cynical,” Clegg tweeted.
“Four in 10 kids who DIDN'T receive free lunches prior to infant provision were officially in poverty. So much for compassionate Conservatives,” he added.
Sarah Olney, the Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman, also weighed in, saying, “Margaret Thatcher was known as the 'milk snatcher.' Theresa May will go down as the lunch snatcher.”
Both the Liberal Democrats and the U.K. Labour Party have pledged to extend free school meals to all primary school children.
The Conservatives’ other controversial proposals include capping immigration to under 100,000 people, and the inclusion of property value in the means test for receiving free care in one’s own home, where currently only income and savings are taken into account.
"The disappointment about these proposals is that they fail to tackle the biggest problem of all in social care: there is nothing that you can do to protect yourself against care costs," Sir Andrew Dilnot, who produced a report on the social care system for the Coalition government in 2011, told BBC Radio 4's Today program.
"People will be left helpless, knowing that what will happen if they are unlucky enough to suffer the need for care costs, is that they will be entirely on their own until they are down to their last 100,000 pounds of all of their wealth, including their house."
The center-left, social democrat U.K. Labour Party, the antithesis to the Tories in the upcoming elections, also released their manifesto this week. Among their many proposals, free university education and "fair rules and reasonable management of migration" without a numerical target, are included.
On the foreign policy front, Labour has vowed to “immediately recognize the state of Palestine,” suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and demand a U.N. investigation into human rights abuses by the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, all of which signal a break in the party's history of being mired in imperialist wars, most notably the Iraq War under the leadership of former Prime Minister and "war" criminal Tony Blair.
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