A leaked Whatsapp message from a Tory MP has suggested that Marcus Rashford should have spent more time “perfecting his game” than “playing politics” as Italy secured victory at Wembley.
Natalie Elphicke made the comment in a message to fellow MPs after the footballer missed a penalty during the Euro 2020 final on 11 July.
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Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “While the country was commiserating (with) our great team, Tory MPs were sneering at the inspirational players who stepped up to feed hungry kids when they voted to leave them without food.”
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Ms Elphicke has now “rightly apologised”.
Here’s what she said.
Who is the Dover MP?
In 2019, Elphicke was elected as the MP for Dover after a career in law spanning 18 years.
She had previously worked for Inland Revenue from 1995 to 1997 - before becoming a financial partner at Stephen Harwood law firm until 2013.
She later succeeded her husband as MP, who was forced to stand down from the role.
In 2020, she was given the role of Parliamentary Private Secretary - an assistant to a minister - and has also earned recognition as a freeman of London.
What did she say about Marcus Rashford?
In a late-night private message Elphicke said: “They lost – would it be ungenerous to suggest Rashford should have spent more time perfecting his game and less time playing politics.”
Her message was then leaked after Rashford’s failure to convert from the spot – along with misses from Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka – consigned England to another agonising penalty shoot-out defeat in a major tournament.
Rashford waged a high-profile campaign to persuade the government to provide free meals to vulnerable youngsters throughout the school holidays during the Covid pandemic, forcing Prime Minister Boris Johnson into a U-turn.
Has the MP apologised?
The Dover MP has now apologised - after the message was reported by GB News.
She said: “I applaud the England team who gave their all in Euro 2020.
“Last night I shared the frustration and heartbreak of millions of other England fans.
“I regret messaging privately a rash reaction about Marcus Rashford’s missed penalty and apologise to him for any suggestion that he is not fully focused on his football.
“Onwards to the World Cup and I look forward to Marcus Rashford’s contribution at that time.”