The Prime Minister’s attempt to bring in tougher measures for Mancunians was yesterday blasted by Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, who accused him of using the area as a “sacrificial lamb”. He threatened to take legal action against the Government if it imposed the rules – and was backed by Conservative MPs in the North in his revolt against Mr Johnson.
But Mr Johnson will today shrug off the threats and criticism and push ahead with his plan to impose Tier 3 restrictions in Greater Manchester.
So far, the only area to have the strictest set of measures imposed is Liverpool.
Mr Burnham and No10 have been at loggerheads ever since parts of the plan were leaked to the press last week.
The disagreement has so far prevented the Government from moving Manchester into Tier 3, which required bars and restaurants to close and non-essential travel outside the area banned.
Indoor mixing of households would not be allowed under the “very high risk” tier rules.
The Labour mayor gave an impassioned press conference on Thursday in which he accused the Government of treating the North “with contempt” and slammed ministers for ushering in strict rules “on the cheap”.
Mr Burnham said: “We have to protect the health of the nation but let’s do it as one nation, and not make the North of England the sacrificial lamb for an ill-thought-through Downing Street policy which doesn’t make sense in the real world.”
And in the clearest sign yet of a North-South split among the Tories, Conservative lawmakers it the North rejected calls for Greater Manchester to have Tier 3 restrictions imposed.
Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs, said: “The case has not been made for Greater Manchester to move into a Tier Three lockdown.”
Sir Graham, who represents the constituency of Altrincham and Sale West in Greater Manchester, said his Northern colleagues were concerned about the implications of another strict lockdown.
He said: “There is widespread concern amongst MPs, council leaders and the Mayor of Greater Manchester, all resisting the suggestion that Tier 3 should be introduced.”
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7.56am update: Raab accuses Burnham of ‘trying to hold Government over a barrel’
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has accused Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham of trying to “hold the Government over a barrel” by resisting tougher coronavirus restrictions.
Mr Raab told BBC Breakfast: “Ultimately we need to take action – we can’t have a situation as we have seen in Manchester where Andy Burnham is effectively trying to hold the Government over a barrel over money and politics when actually we need to take action.
“The cases there are 470 per 100,000 so it is very serious, and we must take action in the interest of the people of Manchester and the wider area, and if we take those targeted actions in those areas most affected… we get through this and we avoid the national level lockdown.”
He urged Mr Burnham to “do the right thing by the people of Manchester”.