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Lib Dems In Southwark Had Campaigned Against Free School Meals

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UPDATE: Southwark Lib Dem leader Anood Al-Samerai tells HuffPost UK that the leaflet is "old" and "times have moved on".

"We opposed the introduction of free school meals three years ago, when Labour were cutting front line services at the same time. But it's moved on since then. We've done surveys over the summer and found out parents are really happy with the extra money in their pocket, and came to the conclusion it would be unfair to take it away from them.

"This was a local decision. But we are actually really happy about the government announcement that four and five year old's meals will get free meals, and we will only have to pay for the remaining three years of primary school pupils. That will save a large chunk of council money."

It's not just the Tax Payers Alliance who have been left red with rage by Nick Clegg's plan for free school meals for every four and five-year-old in Britain.

Southwark's Liberal Democrats are also red-faced, after a old leaflet campaign emerged accusing their Labour counterparts of "bad choices" for spending "millions for free food for the richest kids".

The leaflet quickly went viral on Twitter, much to the glee of the Southwark Labour party.

In 2012 Cllr Anood Al-Samerai said she saw "no evidence to show that extending free school meals to every child will significantly reduce obesity."

But the group did a u-turn earlier this month, perhaps after internal murmurings about plans for Clegg's landmark pledge. Southwark Lib Dems sent out a press release just eight days ago, pledging to keep meals free.

Here's Cllr Al-Samerai again. "Southwark Liberal Democrats are on the side of local parents who want the best for their children. That's why we've pledged to protect universal free school meals if we win control of the council next year," she said.

"With this embarrassing u-turn they have given no explanation why they have changed their mind leaving a huge credibility gap in their plans," the Labour party said in a post on its website.

Cllr Peter John, Labour leader of Southwark Council, said he welcomed the Lib Dems "damascene conversion to Labour’s policy of free healthy school meals but frankly I don’t believe a word of it".

“Locally the Lib Dems, are now adopting Labour policies in a desperate attempt to hang on but you cannot go from absolute opposition, to cast iron support overnight and expect to retain any credibility. The Lib Dems offer no alternative, and this desperate attempt to take popular Labour policies as their own shows what a sorry state they are in.”

Southwark is the constituency of Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes.

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