Andy Burnham has chosen the right time to challenge the Johnson government. The Mayor of Greater Manchester is being asked to support the Government’s Tier 3 lockdown without the financial support that’s vitally needed to make it viable. Accusing the Tories of “playing poker with people's lives” the Labour mayor spoke for the millions in his region who need financial support to stave off unemployment and poverty that will otherwise follow the new local lockdown regime.
Greater Manchester is calling for between £65m and £75m to support businesses that would be forced to close during a Tier 3 lockdown and he’s won across-the-board support from other local government leaders in the region who have joined him in dismissing the Government’s current business support packages as woefully inadequate.
According to a Daily Telegraph journalist “Politics is crazy right now. One Tory MP just told me: ‘We are on the cusp of having Andy Burnham carried shoulder-high through the streets of Manchester. He has demonstrated courage and principle, hope and determination and a spirit that the British people can be proud of’”.
Meanwhile Sir Keir Starmer is calling on Northern Tory MPs to support Labour’s demand for furloughed workers to continue to receive 80 per cent of their wages after the current scheme ends at the end of the month and better financial support for areas in the top tier of restrictions. “The Prime Minister and the Chancellor need to make good on their commitment to the British people to do whatever it takes to help us through this pandemic,” the Labour leader said. “We need a fair one nation deal that can help us through the second wave”.
This could mean trouble for the Tories particularly in the “red wall” Northern constituencies that they took from Labour in last year’s general election. The Government has put £60 million on the table and the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, clearly hopes that will be enough to buy off trouble in the run-up to next year’s regional elections. Sunak clearly doesn’t want to maintain the current national business and furlough support at the current levels. This is probably because Sunak fears that a national lockdown of a much longer duration than the currently touted two-week “circuit breaker” is inevitable and he doesn’t want to raise taxes or, indeed, cut the defence budget, to pay for it.
This could also mean trouble for Starmer himself. Back in 2017 Tony Blair told us that Labour would be 20 points ahead of the Tories if it wasn’t for Corbyn. This year the Remainers said Labour’s fortunes would dramatically change once Starmer was at the helm.
But that hasn’t happened has it? Starmer claimed to be a “unity” candidate who would continue along the trajectory charted by Corbyn. But he didn’t did he?
Continuing with the bogus “anti-semitic” campaign and hounding out prominent left supporters of the old regime may have won him the plaudits of the Zionists and the ageing Blairites who still sit in the House of Commons. But it’s cut no ice with working people battling against austerity and the coronavirus plague. There’s been little sign of a breakthrough in England and Labour remains in the doldrums in Scotland.
If Starmer stumbles in the regional polls next year there’ll be plenty of other “centre-left” Labour wannabees more than ready to take his place. Andy Burnham is one of them. Sadiq Khan is another.