Everyone’s favourite politician at the moment, Ben Bradley, recently voted against the Opposition’s latest motion which would have provided 1.4 million children with free school meals during the holidays. By doing so, he has exposed himself as not only someone who willingly votes against giving food to hungry children, but also a hypocrite.
Earlier this year in July, the MP for Mansfield delivered a heartfelt speech in the House of Commons on the plight of white, working-class boys. In this speech he said that they are ‘Most likely to drop out of school with no qualifications, most likely to commit suicide. They’re already falling behind in terms of attainment compared with all of their peers by the age of 5.’ He added that the plight of white, working-class boys stills seems to be an unfashionable one and a ‘taboo subject’ in Parliament.
In an article for The House Magazine, Bradley said “Imagine the legitimate public outcry there would be if a set of statistics showed that disadvantaged black boys or Asian girls were way behind their white counterparts at school. Heads would roll. Yet this is precisely what is happening to white boys from disadvantaged backgrounds, and modern society is ignoring their plight.”
It seems strange then that an MP who launched such a public campaign to improve the livelihoods of white, working-class boys would then vote against a policy that would solve this problem. When presented with the opportunity to tackle this taboo and put white, working-class kids on a more equal footing with their classmates, regardless of background, he voted it down. So,when he complains of “modern society ignoring their plight”, is he referring to himself?
In the aforementioned speech, Bradley expands on his point by saying “The Equalities Act doesn’t touch on socioeconomic disparity or poverty and it seems like every other group in society has some kind of positive action in place apart from these boys.” The free school meals initiative seems like the ideal ‘positive action’ that Bradley would encourage the government to do. Why then, did he vote against it?
To answer this question, it’s worth examining to note the timing of Bradley’s campaign. His crusade to help out white, working-class boys coincided with the height of the Black Lives Matter movement. A movement which he has called “divisive and controversial”. And at a time when this country was having a long overdue conversation about race and the certain privileges that come with your skin colour. It’s almost as if Ben Bradley is indifferent towards the livelihoods of white, working-class children and instead was using them as a means to delegitimise an anti-racist movement.
By politicising such a situation, he has exploited the very real and legitimate struggle of white, working-class boys. Mansfield, the seat he represents, is the most deprived constituency in the entire county of Nottinghamshire. A county in which 1 in 6 children live in poverty. By using the ‘who has it worse than who’ argument to detract attention from very serious issues, he has used the hardship of some of the most vulnerable children in the country as a political football, to be thrown around for his own gain. His promise to help white, working-class boys has revealed itself to be nothing but a racist, dog whistle.
In his act to convince people he cared about the working-class, Bradley has exposed some of his own shocking views on the very people he pretended he would fight for. In a Twitter conversation, he agreed with a comment that said the Free School Meal vouchers “effectively” gave “cash direct to a crack den and brothel”. It has also been reported that said public sector workers should quit if they think their wages aren’t high enough and that the unemployed should be sterilised.
Furthermore, not only is Bradley a hypocrite for voting against the free school meals scheme, but also for his ideas about the role of the state.
In defending his vote against Free School Meals, he argued that not everything needed to come from ‘central government’ and that people had become increasingly reliant on the state. However, it has been revealed that Bradley has claimed almost £59,000 in expenses from the state in 11 months. This is on top of his £82,932 a year salary and a daily food allowance of £25. In comparison, Free School Meals vouchers are £15 per week.
Bradley used the level of deprivation in his constituency for political point scoring. He is a hypocrite who pretended to care about poverty and inequality, only to vote to actively make it worse.