Like many people, I am appalled the Conservative government wouldn’t back a Labour motion to extend free school meals over school holidays until Easter 2021, failing to support the campaign spearheaded by Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford, who had urged politicians to ‘unite’ to protect the most vulnerable children.

I just don’t get it.

Surely it is the responsibility of those in power to look after society’s most vulnerable. If the government won’t take care of hungry children, exactly who will it look after?

Just to make sure I’d got my facts right, I checked on the Parliament website to see exactly who voted to let kids go hungry.

To a man and woman, the only people who thought it was a good idea to pick on poor schoolchildren were Tories. Members of every other party voted for the motion.

Speaks volumes, doesn’t it?

I’m still trying to work out exactly why the government thought it was a good idea to paint itself as being so mean, and mean-spirited.

After all, we are in the grip of a pandemic that is not just a health crisis but an economic one as well.

Thousands upon thousands of people have lost their jobs this year as a result of coronavirus while many more have seen their income drastically reduced because of short-time working or being put on furlough.

Official figures from earlier this year showed 1.4 million disadvantaged children were eligible for free school meals in England. That number is estimated to have risen by hundreds of thousands since the coronavirus outbreak, and may now be closer to two million.

Does the government really think that every parent of a child entitled to free school meals is feckless, spending their money on beer, fags and Sky Sports instead of putting food on the table? Maybe it does. As my old gran used to say: “Judge people by what they do, not what they say.”

I can only think the government’s decision was political, voting against what most people could see what was right because it was proposed by Labour, as Baroness Nicky Morgan seemed to be suggesting on Question Time last week.

Or maybe the government showed such a lack of political awareness it simply misjudged the mood of the nation as businesses up and down the country rallied round to provide the meals the government refused to do.

Or maybe the government thought it just couldn’t afford the cost of the meals. A similar scheme run during lockdown and throughout the school summer holidays cost an estimated £126m.

Let’s just put this in context, shall we?

According to a report in the Daily Mirror, more than £1billion (yes billion) of outsourced government contracts have gone to firms run by Tory ‘friends and donors’ since the pandemic took hold.

The figures include deals for PPE provision, testing and polling – as well as the Government’s much-maligned contact tracing system.

Some of the firms were awarded work under emergency procedures that allow public bodies to give contracts without asking other firms to bid for the work.

And for a little more financial context, according to the Financial Times, the test, trace and isolate programme is costing £12billion this year, comparable to what the government spends on nursery and university education.

The promise made by Matt Hancock, health secretary, was that it “will help us keep this virus under control while carefully and safely lifting the lockdown nationally”.

Some quotes don’t age well, do they?

So where do we go from here? Having made their point over the half term holidays, the government has Christmas looming on the horizon.

It seems to me that failing to provide food for the most needy and vulnerable over the festive season is an open goal for the ‘Scrooge’ headline writers.

But with this government, whose motto seems to be ‘never apologise, never explain’ nothing would surprise me.

I was happy to see that Cheshire East Council rose to the school meals challenge by offering supermarket vouchers for families in need over the half-term school break.

According to the Guardian council thanked everyone for their support for the the most vulnerable (which is more than Boris Johnson and his Cabinet have done), and urged anyone in crisis to contact the council’s social care and early help teams.

Cllr Kathryn Flavell, Cheshire East Council cabinet member for children and families said: “Cheshire East Council is committed to helping our most vulnerable children and families, and we are always at the end of the phone for anyone who is in a crisis.”

Yet again, we have under-resourced councils picking up the slack, a job the government should have done.