England lockdown: Boris Johnson 'treating northern voters as inferior' to south

1 November 2020, 20:53 | Updated: 1 November 2020, 21:16

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham criticised the PM over the furlough scheme
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham criticised the PM over the furlough scheme. Picture: PA

By Ewan Somerville

Mayors in the North of England have accused Boris Johnson of showing that he thinks voters there are worth less than those in the south.

At an online press conference on Sunday, Liverpool City Region mayor Steve Rotheram said: “This morning millions of people woke up knowing the Prime Minister of this country believes the North is worth less than the South.”

Voters in so-called Red Wall constituencies, the Labour strongholds in the north that turned Tory in the last election, would not be “fooled” into electing the Conservatives again, he added.

It comes after the Government announced on Saturday evening that the furlough scheme would continue until early December to cover England’s second national lockdown.

Read more: Boris Johnson faces major Tory rebellion over 'disastrous' England lockdown

This followed an almighty row between No 10 and leaders in Greater Manchester, Liverpool and other Tier 3 regions at workers in shuttered businesses there being offered only 67% of monthly wages.

The furlough scheme, which was due to wind down on 31 October, pays 80 per cent of wages up to a monthly cap of £2,500.

Labour politician Mr Rotherham said: “Apparently all votes count equally, but all voters demonstrably don’t to this Government and the support you get from the Chancellor of the Exchequer depends on a horizontal line drawn across the country and on which side of it you sit.”

He told the press briefing that, during discussions about Liverpool City Region becoming the first area of the country to enter Tier 3 restrictions, the Government was “unequivocal” that it would not consider changes to the furlough scheme.

“I can assure the Government that the people of the North won’t easily forget that they were judged to be worth less than their southern counterparts,” he added.

Read more: ‘No idea’ why Government didn’t listen to SAGE in September, says Tory MP

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Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said people in the region had “just completed three months of morale-sapping restrictions and now they are waking up to the prospect of a month of even tougher restrictions”.

He added: “I honestly don’t believe that [it] is understood in Westminster, that already people have been ground down by the restrictions they have been living under and they need to understand that before we go any further forward.”

He called for work to be done on a “substantial localisation” of the NHS Test and Trace system, for self-employed people to be financially supported and for schools to close for two weeks for a “true circuit break”.

Read more: Tory MP furious with second national lockdown

Read more: Some Children excluded from two-person meeting limit

He said: “We need to see an end to the late-night briefings of newspapers which have major consequences for people’s lives, causing all kinds of worry and anguish, we need to see an end to the ongoing failure of test and trace, we need to see an end to the differential treatment of people on low wages, people in the North vs people in the South, we need to see an end to the exclusion of some people who desperately now need some public support.

“If we do those things we can use November as a proper reset of this country’s response to this pandemic.”

Schools, colleges and universities as well as industries not able to operate from home are set to stay open under the new lockdown, which runs from Thursday until 2 December.

LBC has approached the Government for comment.

The measures in full lasting from Thursday until December 2:

- People must stay at home unless for education, for work if you cannot work from home, for exercise, for medical reasons, to shop for food and essentials, to care for others

- Non-essential shops, leisure and entertainment venues will all be closed. Click and collect can continue and essential shops such as supermarkets will remain open. Bars, pubs and restaurants must stay closed except for delivery or take-away services. Hairdressers and beauty salons will close.

- Two people from different households can meet outside in a public space and children “under school age” who are with their parents do not count towards this. This exemption does not apply to homes and private gardens.

- Schools, colleges and universities will all remain open. Childminders and nurseries will stay open and childcare bubbles, where for example a grandparent provides childcare while a parent works, will be able to continue. After-school clubs and sports clubs will be suspended.

- People are advised not to travel unless for essential reasons. People can travel for work. Anyone on holiday will be allowed to return to the UK.