AN MP who voted against providing free meals for children during holidays is set to press the education secretary after a tsunami of complaints and a protest outside his office.

Residents have contacted Mark Francois, MP for Rayleigh and Wickford in droves to question his vote, as well as hosting an “empty plate protest” outside his office yesterday.

Mr Francois will now forward all the complaints to education secretary Gavin Williamson - despite voting against the Labour-led motion, which is now synonymous with Manchester United and England footballer Marcus Rashford.

Dozens of protestors held empty plates outside his office after residents also protested outside Southend West MP Sir David Amess’ office on Sunday.

Samantha Reed, 44, vice chair of the Rayleigh and Wickford Labour group, said: “I’ have a nine-year-old, and so when the protest outside David Amess’ office took place I was really empowered by all the parents to make my voice heard.

“I’ve also been in these children’s shoes- when I was younger I had free school meals and grew up in poverty. Thankfully I never remember going hungry, but we didn’t have cupboards full of food and I remember the stigma and shame attached to it.

“The issue does hit home and is personal for me, but this is also about holding the MP’s who voted against this to account.”

Mrs Reed, who brought her son Clarke to the event, added: ““It went really well considering it was so short notice. Originally I wanted to get 1,376 pieces of crisp packets and sweet wrappers instead, this is the number of children eligible for free school meals in our constituency.”

Mr Francois said: “The national debt is already soaring due to Covid-19 and even more spending ultimately means higher taxes, which no one wants but given the number of emails I have received on this I am now sending them all to the education secretary, so he is aware of how strongly some of my constituents feel.”