The Rashford trap

Oct 12, 2021 by

by Patrick O’Flynn, The Critic:

Marcus Rashford is back in campaigning mode. While collecting an honorary degree from the University of Manchester, the England forward spoke out against the removal of the temporary £20 a week uplift in Universal Credit.

And despite a recent Twitter faux pas adding to speculation that not all his social media posts are authored by him personally and that his smart PR team may be responsible for some of his agenda, the animosity felt in some right-wing circles towards the young Manchester United star is surely misplaced.

It would take a very ungenerous opponent to dispute that Rashford conducts his political campaigning in measured and dignified terms. It is hard, for instance, to imagine him ever referring to government ministers as “scum”, as the deputy leader of the Labour Party did recently.

And given that he is someone who has already earned more money than he will ever need to fund a luxurious lifestyle, it is also difficult to put together an argument that suggests Rashford’s attempts to shift the Government’s social policy leftwards are motivated by a desire to make himself more marketable than he already is rather than by genuine concern for deprived children.

And yet that does not mean the only mode when examining Rashford’s latest intervention should be one of awed admiration either.

William Clouston, the leader of the SDP, identified something disquieting about the footballer’s targeting of the withdrawal of the UC uplift: “Another coup for Marcus Rashford in criticising welfare cuts but, like calling for free school meals, these are easy wins for his media team. Tap ins. I’d love Rashford to address the question of family breakdown and absent fatherhood — which is the prime cause of child poverty.”

For the sake of openness, I should mention that I am a member of the SDP, partly on grounds of it being the only sensible party to talk about the beleaguered status of the family in modern Britain. And I think Mr Clouston has hit the nail on the head here.

Because there is a mountain of social research suggesting that no conceivable additional support from the state can make up for more than a small fraction of the disadvantages that children, particularly those growing up in deprived areas, tend to experience when their parents split up.

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