Tory MPs in north v south civil war over Manchester lockdown plea

Red Wall Tories accuse southern colleagues of ‘f***ing things up’ and ‘throwing them under a bus’ after another 20 MPs in Tier One areas sign letter urging Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham to accept Tier Three curbs

  • They signed letter organised by penned by Broadland MP Jerome Mayhew
  • They urged Labour to support a local Tier3 lockdown to avoid nationwide ‘pain’
  • But local Tories are opposed to both the Tier 3 lockdown and a national reset
  • Signatories accused of being ‘happy to throw colleagues under a bus’

In the missive penned by Norfolk MP Jerome Mayhew (above) they urging the opposition politicians to support moves to get the virus ‘under control’ in Manchester to avoid the ‘pain’ of a national lockdown

Tory backbenchers are embroiled in a bruising north v south coronavirus civil war today after MPs urged Greater Manchester to accept a harsh lockdown for the good of the rest of the country.

Conservatives in northern ‘Red Wall’ seats opened fire on their southern counterparts in a private Whatsapp group after 20 of them signed a letter to Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

In the missive penned by Norfolk MP Jerome Mayhew they urging the opposition politicians to support moves to get the virus ‘under control’ in Manchester to avoid the ‘pain’ of a national lockdown. 

But Tory MPs, including some in Greater Manchester, criticised the letter as ‘unhelpful’ at a time when they are trying to oppose being placed in the harshest Tier 3 Very High lockdown and see off Labour plans for a nationwidde lockdown.

One MP accused the signatories of being ‘happy to throw colleagues under a bus’ in order to win promotion, according to the Telegraph.

Another said: ‘For f***’s sake. Not content with f***ing things up you now post things on social media. I cannot describe how angry this is making me.’

Ministers sent an ultimatum to Mr Burnham and the mutinous Greater Manchester MPs that they must do a deal on Tier Three lockdown today – or face being forced into tougher coronavirus curbs. 

Tory MPs, including some in Greater Manchester, criticised the letter as ‘unhelpful’ at a time when they are trying to oppose being placed in the harshest Tier 3 Very High lockdown and see off Labour plans for a nationwide lockdown.


The letter by Mr Mayhew, the MP for Broadland, highlighted the ‘disparity’ between some of their areas having coronavirus rates currently far lower than Manchester’s

Official data shows the rolling seven day average of coronavirus cases in Greater Manchester has been falling in recent days

But their northern counterparts were quick to vent their anger publicly

Revellers on the street in Manchester on Saturday night ahead of the curfew

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick warned that talks had gone on ‘too long’ and the government could force the issue as early as tomorrow unless the region accepts a package of funding to ease the impact, thought to be worth up to £100million.

The threat came after doctors voiced alarm that Manchester is at risk of running out of hospital beds for COVID, with the bitter standoff now having delayed a clampdown by days.

But along with the war of words with Mr Burnham and Labour, the wrangling is also at risk of tearing the Conservative Party apart – as local MPs including 1922 committee chair Sir Graham Brady dismiss the need for the highest levels of restrictions.

The letter by Mr Mayhew, the MP for Broadland,  highlighted the ‘disparity’ between some of their areas having coronavirus rates currently far lower than Manchester’s.

‘On behalf of our constituents, we feel compelled to write to you to ask you to engage with the Government’s regional approach to tackle the virus,’ they added.

‘It is very clear to us – and the people we represent – that the local and regional approach is the right response to the current situation.

‘We urge you to work with the Government to get the virus under control in Greater Manchester, so we can all avoid the pain of another national lockdown.’

Other signatures of the letter included Ashford MP and former Cabinet minister  Damian Green , Yeovil’s Marcus Fysh and North Cornwall’s Scott Mann.

Their letter echoed the words of Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier this week as he continued to resist imposing a short national ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown, a measure suggested by the Government’s scientific advisers.

‘Closing businesses in Cornwall, where transmission is low, will not cut transmission in Manchester,’ he said in a Downing Street press conference.  

But their northern counterparts were quick to vent their anger publicly.

Bury North’s James Daly said it was ‘a deeply disappointing letter’ and ‘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’. 

Christian Wakeford, the Tory MP for nearby Bury South, said politicians in the region were ‘united in opposing Tier 3 in its current form’ in order to get the ‘best solution’ for residents.

‘Interventions from fellow members who don’t understand the situation are neither wanted nor helpful,’ he added.

And senior Conservative William Wragg, whose Hazel Grove constituency is in Greater Manchester, recommended his colleagues ‘concern themselves with their own constituencies’.

‘I would not wish tighter restrictions on their constituents,’ he said.

A group of women in Manchester sing as the 10pm curfew approaches on Saturday night

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

Jackie Doyle-Price, whose Essex constituency of Thurrock remains at the lowest level of restrictions, was also critical of the ‘badly done’ letter.

‘There is much collaboration across Greater Manchester to seek a workable solution,’ she said. ‘It is very ill judged to seek to make this issue partisan.’

Mr Burnham also hit back yesterday, saying that the ‘we’re alright Jack’ letter would not ‘cut much ice here’. 

He has also joined Sir Keir in favouring a short national lockdown, arguing it would be fairer and would get his constituents’ greater support. 

Mr Burnham told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘I would say to them some of them represent constituencies whose cases were higher than ours when we went into national lockdown.

‘Anywhere could end up in Tier 3 this winter. In fact, I would say places are likely to end up in Tier 3 this winter, therefore it’s everyone’s concern that we protect the lowest paid in our communities.’

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