Tory MP’s office garden covered in empty plates in school meals protest

Dozens of empty plates were left outside a Conservative MP’s office to protest over the party voting against plans to extend free school meals over holidays.

The protest was organised by the All Rise Collective, a group of inclusive feminist allies in the community, and targeted the constituency office of Southend West MP David Amess.

Amess was one of 322 MPs who last week voted against a Labour motion calling for the extension of free meals during the school holidays in England until Easter 2021.

Locals wrote messages on empty plates and left them outside the Southend West Conservative Association building on Sunday, with queues of people waiting to participate stretching down the street.

An empty plate protest takes place outside the Southend West Conservative Association
(Sadie Hasler)

“Quite a few of us are mothers in the group, the moment you start thinking too much about them ever being hungry, it’s just heartbreaking,” organiser Sadie Hasler told the PA news agency.

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“The situations people find themselves in are just unbearable. The stigma that comes with maybe being a single parent, and trying to do the best thing by your child, and society just kind of constantly wants to keep elbowing you in the ribs for it.”

The All Rise Collective shared their protest plan on social media on Saturday night, but were amazed to see the number of people already queueing the next morning.

“There’s a massive underbelly of people that are absolutely horrified that we have two safe Tory seats,” said Hasler.

An empty plate protest takes place outside the Southend West Conservative Association
(Sadie Hasler)

“We really just don’t want to be invisible. We want people to know that they are being challenged. We’re just trying to do a really simple peaceful protest that was visual that we could share.

“Last night it was quite strange. It was the first time in the whole of lockdown while defacing some plates with heavily black-markered anger that I switched off, and it was really cathartic and peaceful.”

The protest inspired others to take part in their area. Robert Edge took a solitary plate to the Eltham Conservative offices in south-east London.

“As an older person I am somewhat limited in my ability to show my displeasure at the way I feel the country is heading,” he told PA.

“But the #emptyplate (protest) seemed a safe, peaceful and easy way to lobby the local Conservatives, some of whom I know are becoming disaffected with their PM. If I can help them become more disaffected I have done something.”

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  • Show Comments
    1. Suffer little children to come unto me Jesus spoke yet even t may sais she’s a Christian I’d rather doubt it has another one who voted no. They now the suffering they causing by universal credit but then award themselves more cash how quaint are they

    2. All rise indeed. Great work. Be in no doubt ,however, about what is going on: the Tories who are supporting free school meals are concerned about votes, not principles. Nor is the Labour Party acting out of principle, hence Kate Green supporting only a temporary provision. KIds are hungry every day. They need good meals every day. Permanently. All kids. The current Labour leadership has no principles,. It is the old careerist, machine-politics of “ote-toi que je m’y mette” and “moi, c’est different”, Buggins’ turn in short. Labour should be seizing this chance to assert a campaign to rid the UK of child poverty once and for all. Instead, the weary, self-serving message is: “You can have a free dinner today but tomorrow we go back to normal and you can go hungry.” Despicable and pusillanimous. These are Labour MPs who eat in subsidised Westminster facilities, these are Labour MPs whose expenses outstrip the average salary by miles. They have their eyes on power and their hands on their wallets. Where their hearts should be you will find only a bank statement. They will sacrifice poor kids for the sake of their careers, their egos, to see their names in the history books. But how will they be remembered? As they deserve to be: as cheap time-servers unwilling to fight for justice on principle

    3. Faced with Hobson’s Choice, localised action is the only logical route. Football supporters in the north-east are contributing the pay-per-view demands of their corporate owners to a feed our children charity. Hopefully the illusions that have contributed to the impression of the emperor’s new clothes are falling from the eyes of the common people. The choice is simple: humanity or mean spiritedness. The Tories have always depended on the latter.

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