Unicef accused of 'playing politics' after launching campaign to feed kids in UK

Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg said the charity should be 'ashamed'

Jacob Rees-Mogg, U.K. leader of the House of Commons, arrives for a weekly meeting of cabinet ministers in London, U.K., on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will head to Brussels within days for urgent talks with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, amid growing fears on both sides that Brexit trade talks will fail. Photographer: Hollie Adams/Bloomberg
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Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg says Unicef should be “ashamed” after the charity launched a campaign to feed British schoolchildren during the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Rees-Mogg, Leader of the House, accused the UN charity of “playing politics” after it announced plans to feed 1,800 hungry children over Christmas.

In Parliament, the Eton-educated former banker, called the move “a political stunt of the lowest order”.

On Wednesday, Unicef said it would give £25,000 to the charity School Food Matters, which will deliver breakfast boxes to vulnerable children and families in South London.

The charity said each box would provide enough food for 10 breakfasts across the Christmas holidays.

Labour’s Zarah Sultana raised the matter in Parliament.

“For the first time ever, Unicef, the UN agency responsible for providing humanitarian aid to children, is having to feed working-class kids in the UK," Ms Sultana said.

“But while children go hungry, a wealthy few enjoy obscene riches, from Tory donors handed billions in dodgy contracts to people like the Leader of the House, who is reportedly in line to receive an £800,000 dividend payout this year.

“So will he give government time to discuss the need to make him and his super-rich chums pay their fair share so that we can end the grotesque inequality that scars our society?”

Mr Rees-Mogg replied: “I think it is a real scandal that Unicef should be playing politics in this way when it is meant to be looking after people in the poorest, the most deprived, countries of the world where people are starving, where there are famines and where there are civil wars, and they make cheap political points of this kind, giving, I think, £25,000 to one council.

"It is a political stunt of the lowest order. Unicef should be ashamed of itself."

Ms Sultana later condemned Rees-Mogg's response on Twitter.

Anna Kettley, Unicef UK’s director of programmes and advocacy, said: “Unicef UK is responding to this unprecedented crisis and building on our 25 years’ experience of working on children’s rights in the UK with a one-off domestic response, launched in August, to provide support to vulnerable children and families around the country during this crisis period.

“In partnership with Sustain, the food and farming alliance, over £700,000 of Unicef UK funds is being granted to community groups around the country to support their vital work helping children and families at risk of food insecurity during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Unicef will continue to spend our international funding to help the world’s poorest children.

"We believe that every child is important and deserves to survive and thrive no matter where they are born.”