Labour’s Lisa Nandy has remarked that the government is “weirdly obsessed” with Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham after talks over a lockdown support package for the region broke down yesterday.
Asked on Sky News this morning whether Burnham and Labour were politicising the situation, the Shadow Foreign Secretary said it was the government that was “playing party politics” by repeatedly attacking the mayor.
Nandy said: “I just think this is absolutely bizarre from the government. From day one, there has been an attack on the Labour Party, and particularly on Andy Burnham, who ministers seem weirdly obsessed by in all of this.
“In the call last night, Matt Hancock spent the first five minutes of a 25-minute call having a go at Andy Burnham, which, to be honest, didn’t go down well at all with his Conservative colleagues.
“What they fail to recognise is that the anger is real here. It’s across the board now. And you’ve got Conservative MPs who are far more critical of the government than I have been, and Tory council leaders as well.
“The Tory council leader in Bolton, who is telling the government that this money is not sufficient, that the strategy is not good enough and they need to negotiate in good faith. We are not politicising this issue in Greater Manchester, the only people who are doing that is the government.
“And, as I asked Matt Hancock last night, I’ll just politely say to Robert Jenrick – please stop doing this, we’re in the middle of a crisis in this country and we need a government that stops playing party politics and just helps us to get through.”
"On the call last night, @MattHancock spent the first five minutes of a 25 minute conversation having a go at @AndyBurnhamGM."@lisanandy says the Government are "weirdly obsessed" with the Mayor of Greater Manchester. JJ#KayBurley pic.twitter.com/UDGqpRPrjC
— Kay Burley (@KayBurley) October 21, 2020
Nandy’s comments follow a debate on the implementation of Tier 3 restrictions in Greater Manchester. Burnham and several other local leaders were opposed to the lockdown without more support being offered to the region.
But negotiations with the government broke down yesterday as ministers refused to offer £65m in support, and it was confirmed that the region would be forced into Tier 3 restrictions on Friday without local agreement.
Burnham was told during a press conference on Tuesday afternoon that the region would only receive £22m in funding, but ITV’s Daniel Hewitt has since reported that this amount is for the test and trace system.
Boris Johnson led a coronavirus press conference yesterday, following Burnham’s, in which he refused to clarify what extra support Greater Manchester will receive beyond the £22m for test and trace and enforcement.
Matt Hancock subsequently confirmed in a House of Commons statement from 7pm on Tuesday that the £60m of support being discussed in the final stage of the negotiations with Greater Manchester was “still on the table”.