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Northern Conservative MPs blast 'ill-advised' letter from fellow Tories to Manchester mayor over local lockdown

George Martin
·3-min read
People wearing face masks walk past a advertisement on Market Street in Manchester, as the city is waiting to find out if the region will be placed into the Very High category with tier 3 lockdown restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus. (Photo by Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images)
People wearing face masks walk past an advertisement on Market Street in Manchester. (Getty)

Conservative MPs in the north of England have hit out at Tory colleagues for writing to the mayor of Manchster urging him to "engage" with the government's regional lockdown efforts.

The letter, sent to Andy Burnham and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer on Saturday, suggests that moving the city into the highest tier of local lockdown restrictions would help “avoid the pain of a second national lockdown”.

"It does not make sense to shut down the whole country when the virus is spiking in particular locations," the letter says.

"Our constituents, like yours, have made many sacrifices to get - and keep - the virus under control in our areas.”

A person wearing face masks walks across Deansgate in Manchester as the city is waiting to find out if the region will be placed into the Very High category with tier 3 lockdown restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus. (Photo by Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images)
The government is attempting to place Manchster into the Very High category of lockdown restrictions. (Getty)

Among the 20 signatories were Tory MPs representing constituencies as far away as St Austell and Newquay in Cornwall, Newton Abbot in Devon and Norwich.

Soon after it was sent, however, the letter drew a furious reaction from Tory MPs representing northern constituencies who described it as “neither wanted nor helpful”.

Christian Wakeford, the MP for Bury South, said: “Since Thursday we’ve been united in opposing tier 3 in its current form and delivering the best solution for all residents, families and businesses across GM.

Read more: Dominic Raab says Greater Manchester Mayor 'holding government over a barrel' as Tier 3 row intensifies

“Interventions from fellow members who don’t understand the situation are neither wanted nor helpful.”

While James Daly, the MP for Bury North, tweeted: “A deeply disappointing letter. Unnecessary and Ill-advised as to the continuing efforts of all politicians, cross party, in GM to represent the best interests of our residents during this challenging period and beyond.”

William Wragg MP said: “May I politely ask that colleagues concern themselves with their own constituencies. I would not wish tighter restrictions on their constituents.

Watch: Manchester police chief says local lockdown rule enforcement shouldn’t be subject to ‘political interference’

“We’re willing to work constructively to improve the situation in Greater Manchester & would ask for the short time and space to do so.”

It comes as Andy Burnham blamed chancellor Rishi Sunak for being "the problem" in the political row over restrictions in the city.

Burnham and Conservative politicians in Greater Manchester oppose Tier 3 measures being imposed, with the mayor calling for greater financial support for workers and businesses.

He told the New Statesman magazine: "I think the problem now is, to a large degree, the Chancellor. I think he's made wrong judgements throughout this."

“It’s fundamentally flawed government policy,” Burnham added.

“They’re not funding what is needed to be done, to get the results that they say they want. If they were going to propose this approach, and follow the logic of this approach, they would fund areas properly, to get the closures that bring the virus down, but they’re not doing that. So they’re not even backing their own approach.”

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