Labour To Force Vote On ‘Punishing’ Tier 3 Local Lockdowns

Labour leader Keir Starmer in the House of Commons, London.

Labour leader Keir Starmer will try to end Boris Johnson’s “punishing” local lockdown deals by forcing a Commons vote on the toughest Tier 3 restrictions. 

Demanding a “fair one nation deal” for areas under the restrictions, Starmer will call on the government to standardise the level of support for businesses and workers. 

The move could see some “red wall Tories” rebel and back the Labour motion, which will be tabled as part of an opposition-led debate on the pandemic

It comes after a dramatic stand-off between Downing Street and Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham ended when Johnson ended talks and imposed Tier 3 curbs without local leaders’ agreement. 

The government has given the area £22m to support firms and workers, but said £60m remains “on the table”. 

Burnham, who had sought £65m for the region’s town halls, accused the government of a “deliberate act of levelling down” and “playing poker” with the city after Johnson intervened and offered less cash support. 

The former Labour health secretary was informed of the area’s restrictions live on TV, as Johnson made a public statement on the issue. 

“This is no way to run the country in a national crisis,” Burnham told the cameras.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said the furlough scheme, which when the pandemic took hold in March was set at 80% of lost wages, would be cut to two-thirds.

It is expected further Tier 3 restrictions will be introduced in parts of Yorkshire and the North East in the coming days, where hospitalisations among older people are beginning to climb, as talks begin with other local leaders. 

Speaking ahead of the vote, Starmer said: “The Conservatives have been treating local communities, particularly in the Midlands, North West and North East, and their leaders with contempt. 

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham speaking to the media outside the Central Library in Manchester, he has threatened legal action if Tier 3 restrictions are imposed without agreement.

“This is not just a matter of fairness for people in Greater Manchester, but for people across the country who could find themselves in Tier 3 in the weeks ahead. Families and businesses will be deeply anxious that they might not be able to make ends meet under the government’s wholly inadequate proposals. 

“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. We need a fair one nation deal that can help us through the second wave. 

“I would urge all Conservative MPs, particularly those in areas of the country that are most affected by this, to vote with us tomorrow and force the government’s hand.”

Confirming the Tier 3 restrictions for Greater Manchester in the Commons late on Tuesday, health secretary Matt Hancock acknowledged that the local restrictions were a lot to ask. 

He said: “The path through a pandemic is never straightforward. It requires all of us to make difficult decisions and tough sacrifices and to get the virus under control.

“I know that these local restrictions are hard and they’re another sacrifice in a year full of sacrifices.

I feel a deep sense of disappointment at this collective failure that we have seen today, and quite frankly my constituents in Hazel Grove deserve better.Tory MP William Wragg

“But we must not waver now, we must persevere as we’ve worked so hard on the long-term solutions that will see us through and come together once again.”

Echoing anger from several MPs on the Labour benches about the deal, shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said: “Where is the chancellor? He should be here to defend the consequences of his decisions that will mean a winter of hardship across the north.

“Now the leaders of Greater Manchester were prepared to compromise, they offered to settle for £65m to support jobs and livelihoods, the government insisted on £60m, but rather than finding the £5m extra, the prime minister pulled the plug on negotiations and then this afternoon took £38m off the table.

“What a petty, vindictive, callous response in a national crisis. The PM may think he’s punishing the politicians, in fact he’s punishing the people of Greater Manchester.”

Conservative MP William Wragg, who represents Hazel Grove and had backed Burnham, hit out over the Greater Manchester decision, saying he fears the “medicine is worse than the disease”.

He told the Commons: “I feel a deep sense of disappointment at this collective failure that we have seen today, and quite frankly my constituents in Hazel Grove deserve better.

“I shall resist the urge to lose my temper because these exchanges deserve a greater elevation of tone, but I say this – the definition of insanity is to continue to do the same thing over and over again in the hope it’ll turn good.

“We have had three months of interventions in Greater Manchester which have yielded very little results indeed.

“I cannot help but fear that the medicine is worse than the disease.”