The government has come to learn a lot about the stubborn, steadfast spirit of Manchester this week.
On one side, we’ve got the Mayor, council and hospitality sector angrily rejecting new restrictions and squaring off against health ministers for a “fairer” deal.
On the other, we’ve got Marcus Rashford repeatedly booting a ball against Downing Street’s door demanding more support to tackle child food poverty.
Whilst No. 10 is being coy about Greater Manchester’s tier position so far, it has already flat out rejected Rashford’s attempts to provide free school meals to children during the Christmas holidays.
But Manchester United’s star striker remains undeterred. He knows the battle is only just beginning,
“This is not going anytime soon and neither am I…” the footballer wrote.
Nearly 200,000 people are already behind him.
Rashford’s petition to parliament – which has now accrued enough signatures to see it brought to the floor at the House of Commons for debate – amassed more than 100,000 supporters in 10 hours.
Within 24 hours, numbers toppled 175,000.
The petition is asking the government to expand free school meals to all under-16s where a parent or guardian is in receipt of Universal Credit or equivalent benefit; provide meals and activities during all holidays; and increase the value of Healthy Start vouchers to at least £4.25 per week.
But currently, the government is reluctant to entertain another proposal from Rashford – who has already won an honorary doctorate and MBE for his services to tackle child food poverty throughout the pandemic.
In spring, he actually helped to overturn government policy; convincing ministers to supply free school meals during the summer.
But despite that win, Rashford expected another fight with his new campaign. It appears he’s got it.
In response to the latest petition, a spokesperson for No. 10 stated: “We took that decision to extend free school meals during the pandemic when schools were partially closed during lockdown.
“We’re in a different position now with schools back open to all pupils.
“It’s not for schools to regularly provide food to pupils during the school holidays. We believe the best way to support families outside of term time is through Universal Credit rather than government subsidising meals.”
Greater Manchester is in battle mode this week; fighting the government on several fronts.
And it should perhaps come as no surprise that Mayor Andy Burnham – the resolute voice of the region during the tier saga – has weighed in to provide support for Rashford’s campaign.
“The bigger the number the louder the voice…” said the footballer in response to the 100k signatures so far.
“We’re not stopping here.”
View the petition and show your support online.