Joe Cole labels the government a "disgrace" for not backing Marcus Rashford

Joe Cole has slammed the government over its decision to vote against Marcus Rashford's plea for the free school meals programme to be extended.

Manchester United star Rashford appealed for meals to be provided during holidays for the next six months, but 322 MPs voted against the Labour motion on Wednesday.

Hundreds of local groups and businesses have stepped up to ensure children are not going hungry, while Rashford warned child food poverty may become "the greatest pandemic the country has ever faced" after the vote.

And Cole branded the government a "disgrace" over its decision as he heaped praise on the 22-year-old.

"We said it last season, early on after lockdown: what a lad," the former England midfielder told BT Sport .

"Because at that age, to have that social awareness to understand that that's what's needed, and it's great seeing the people from all cities getting together and helping him.

"And it's a disgrace really that the government are not backing him again. But yeah, Marcus Rashford, massive respect.

"I think we should all be proud of him, he's a footballer, he's in our industry. What a lad."

Cole's former England teammate Joleon Lescott echoed the praise of Rashford, saying: "Role model, an iconic role model.

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"He's someone I look up to, even though I'm older than him. Credit to him and his family."

Lescott added: "There are a lot of footballers, Joe will tell you, that do a lot of good stuff and Marcus is the pinnacle of that.

"The fact that he's continuing this drive and pushing forward and, now the public are getting behind him, there's only one outcome I see happening and that's changing the government and hopefully that happens sooner rather than later."

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