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Sketch: Douglas Ross lends Marcus Rashford his support

Sketch: Douglas Ross lends Marcus Rashford his support

Douglas Ross wants to nationalise Scotland’s children. It’s chilling stuff.

You might not have realised this, but it’s true. He does. The children are our future, and like any natural asset, Ross has views on their ownership model.

The revelation came this week, following Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign to push the UK Government into providing free meals for children during the half-term holiday.

Some had supported it, on the basis children shouldn’t be left to starve, and some had opposed it, though the reasons for that were somewhat more complex. Ben Bradley, for example, took to Twitter to suggest the move would effectively mean poor people handing money over to crack dealers and pimps. It was an issue that split opinion – with Rashford, the general public and a load of businesses the length of England on one side, and 321 Tory MPs on the other.

Which brings us to the decision to nationalise children. As Bassetlaw MP Brendan Clarke-Smith asked the Commons: “Where is the slick PR campaign encouraging absent parents to take some responsibility for their children?

“I do not believe in nationalising children. Instead, we need to get back to the idea of taking responsibility, and this means less celebrity virtue-signalling on Twitter by proxy and more action to tackle the real causes of child poverty.”

Is feeding hungry children virtue-signalling? Is it definitely? It’s probably worth emphasising that this was a pre-prepared speech, rather than gibberish read off the side of a bus stop wall.

And yes, it does raise questions over Clarke-Smith’s understanding of parenting. You aren’t really meant to own the child, Brendan, like it’s a piece of transport infrastructure. Clearly the issue divided the Tories too, with a handful voting against the government in the Commons, and Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross coming out in support of Rashford shortly after.

Is feeding starving children a good policy? Probably too early to say. Thatcher didn’t privatise the UK’s population of under 18s just for a load of virtue signalling snowflake wokies to come in and nationalise them again. That was what the minors’ strike was all about.

But that’s beside the point. Ross had come out in support of Rashford, taking on the UK Government in the process. The question was what he would do about it. The answer? He abstained.

It was all quite confusing. On the one hand, Ross said he supported the campaign, describing Rashford’s work as “nothing short of extraordinary”, but on the other, he did nothing at all, materially, to back it.

As he explained, in a piece in the Telegraph: “Sometimes, you see a performance so inspiring that all you can do is watch it happen and try not to get in the way”.

Is that really all you can do though? As an MP, with a vote, when a vote is taking place? Some would argue there was one extra step he could have taken, if he really wanted to go above and beyond. Sometimes a campaign is so good, all you can do is nothing to support it.

And you might imagine that Ross’s comments would make life somewhat difficult for the Scottish Tory MPs who voted against the campaign – remember, the one based in feeding hungry children – given it sounds quite a lot like a sudden political flip flop.

But, always one step ahead, Ross rejected this too, arguing: “It’s not a sudden political flip-flop”.

So that all sounded fine then. But was it convincing? Ross felt it was. “It’s frankly ridiculous, albeit not very surprising”, he said, “that my political opponents are trying to paint that I somehow wouldn’t be in favour of Marcus Rashford’s campaign.”

Well, yes and no, Douglas. After all, it might have been harder for people to question your support if you had done anything at all to help, beyond trying “not to get in the way”, that is. But, again, that’s unfair. There was a good reason he didn’t vote for it, you see.

“The reason I didn’t vote last week is simple – this was an England-only vote and I don’t feel, as a Scottish Conservative MP for Moray, that I should take part in it.”

Wait, what? You’re not voting on issues that don’t impact Scotland now? Forget nationalisation – that sounds like nationalism. It’s SNP talk. Though the policy might come as some surprise to anyone who saw Ross voting on new health regulations for Blackburn last month.

But if that’s the case, why did the other Scottish Tory MPs vote for it? “It’s been reported that some of our other MPs did take part”, he conceded. Which is true, it has been reported that they took part, because they did. “That will no longer be the practice going forward”.

Well, Rashford will no doubt be delighted. Ross will no longer abstain on providing meals to children because he can’t get a proxy vote. He will now abstain because the vote doesn’t affect his constituents. The SNP will probably be pleased too – after all, sometimes when you see a performance like that, all you can do is try not to get in the way.

Read the most recent article written by Liam Kirkaldy - Sketch: Ian Blackford, devolution and Scotland's tampons


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