First Larne Presbyterian Church

First Larne Presbyterian Church

He Shoots. He Scores... Marcus Rashford

"He Shoots. He Scores" A Comment from Michael Tweed

The UK Government has today announced that it will backtrack and provide free school meals over the summer period, as a result of a short but highly successful campaign from Man Utd striker Marcus Rashford. 1.3 million children in England will now be able to claim free meal vouchers during the holidays, hours after the government refused to do so. It’s a textbook example of how a influential celebrity can lend their voice to a cause, with incredible results.. but how has he succeeded (in less than three days!) when so many celeb campaigns have shown little traction?

1. An authentic voice: Rashford has been through it himself; and in his appeal, he spoke from the heart. In a personal letter addressed to MPs, he recounted how life had been for a young black man in Wythenshawe, Manchester; he and his family relying on breakfast clubs, free school meals, and the kind actions of neighbours to get by.

“As a family, food banks and soup kitchens were not alien to us.. the system was not built for families like mine to succeed, regardless of how hard my mum worked”

2. A specific ask: Children have been returning to school in the UK; yet in a mere matter of weeks those who rely on a free school meal were going to receive nothing over the holidays. His ask was urgent: the kids need an answer now.. yet also time bound. It was straightforward for a government boffin to quickly run the numbers for a finite 6–8 week period of meals; without requiring a commitment for ongoing spend. The ask could also be answered immediately: infrastructure for the voucher system was already set up for term time. No extra report or analysis was needed.

3. An unambiguous good: Who could argue that hungry children need to be fed? Well.. a few government ministers — but in the face of diving poll ratings, and in a narrative of COVID-19 big business bailouts, commentators across the political spectrum were united that this was a clear public good, and worthy of tax dollars.

Also announced today was the UK Govt’s statement that (“finally”, say Conservative backbenchers) the Dept. for International Development will be closed merged with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. The move has been long mooted, and will now go ahead despite DFID’s status as a “strong global champion on value for money”[1]. Global development has a much harder task of convincing government and the public that it is worth increasingly precious public resources. As a Man Utd fan and also a global development consultant — it’s a day of mixed emotions. How can we continue to make the case that hunger on the world stage, matters every bit as much as hunger on our doorstep?

Mike Tweed is a senior manager with Dalberg Advisors based in Nairobi; a lifetime Man Utd fan; and a Brit proud of the UK’s contribution to global development. He writes in a personal capacity.

[1] ICAI, DFID performance review, 2018



Michael Tweed

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Michael Tweed