Marcus Rashford 'thanks PM for U-turn' on free school meals after Johnson calls him on phone

June 16, 2020

Marcus Rashford has thanked Boris Johnson "for U-turning" on a decision to scrap free school meals after the prime minister called him on the phone.

A spokesperson for the striker said he spoke with the PM this afternoon.

"They discussed the importance of making our vulnerable children a priority and Marcus thanked the prime minister for U-turning on a decision that could have been detrimental to the stability of families across the country," a statement said.

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Sky News understands Mr Johnson called Rashford within half an hour of reaching out to check on his availability. The player had been training with fellow United players this morning.

Speaking in Downing Street's daily coronavirus briefing, the PM claimed he had only become aware of the England player's campaign today.

He said he had called to "congratulate him" on the campaign, adding: "I thank him for what he's done."

The PM's spokesman had earlier announced the climbdown, revealing vouchers - for £15 a week - would be made available to around 1.3 million children in England who are currently eligible for the scheme, and will last for six weeks.

The spokesman said Mr Johnson "understands children and parents face unprecedented situations" during the coronavirus outbreak.

He added that payment would be made through vouchers - most likely a one-off six-week voucher, to be given to eligible families at the end of term and which can be spent in supermarkets.

Rashford, 22, has received an outpouring of praise for his efforts from across the world of football and beyond.

Pressure mounted on the prime minister as a multitude of prominent figures and politicians - including a series of Tory MPs - voiced their support.

It came little more than 40 hours after the player posted an open letter calling on the government to overturn its decision to end the voucher programme over the summer holidays.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters joined those lauding Rashford, telling Sky News: "I think it's fantastic. Congratulations to Marcus. His perseverance, the way he has gone about it, have obviously moved government.

"It's a really important and heart-moving cause. I offer my congratulations to him."

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