Red-faced health secretary Matt Hancock has said he may have had “Harry Potter on the mind” when he embarrassingly praised “Daniel Rashford” for his work on free school meals.
England footballer Marcus Rashford led a campaign to extend the children’s food voucher scheme into the summer holidays, which forced a change in policy with a £120 million fund to feed 1.3 million children in England over the six-week break.
Mr Hancock denied the Government had made a U-turn and told Sky News on Wednesday morning: “Righty-ho, I will tell you what happened, the Prime Minister talked to Daniel Rashford, he considered it and made his decision – I think it’s terrific.”
England star Rashford, 22, appeared to joke about the error, responding on Twitter: “I’ve been called much worse over the last couple of days.”
The minister later confessed to radio station LBC that his child’s fondness for the JK Rowling novels may have been to blame and “maybe I had Harry Potter on the mind”.
Harry Potter was played by Daniel Radcliffe in the movie adaptions of the popular books.
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Mr Hancock added: “My seven-year-old listens to Harry Potter and reads Harry Potter avidly, including at 5.30 this morning when I got up to do this morning’s media round.”
Mr Hancock later tweeted in response to the Manchester United star: “Too early. But in all seriousness Marcus you’re a credit to the nation.”
Mr Hancock’s naming error also prompted jokes from opposition politicians, with shadow justice secretary David Lammy tweeting: “Good to see Matt Hancock giving Daniel Rashford the praise he deserves. A true Manchester Athletic fan.”
And SNP MP Pete Wishart added that it was “Daniel Rashford 1 Jam Hatcock 0” in the “school meals play off”.
The Health Secretary later turned down the opportunity to apologise to footballers over his previous call for them to “play their part” in the coronavirus response, and said he was “really proud” of Rashford.
When asked by Radio 4’s Today programme whether he owed the star and others an apology Mr Hancock said: “I think he’s been absolutely brilliant and I think he absolutely has played his part.
“I owe him thanks.”