POLITICS
11/10/2020 11:51 BST | Updated 11/10/2020 12:02 BST

Tories Facing Northern Anger On Scale Of Thatcher Years, Labour Warns

People feel Boris Johnson is "actively working against us", Lisa Nandy warns ahead of expected tougher coronavirus restrictions.

Boris Johnson is facing anger in the north of England on a scale last seen by Margaret Thatcher’s government in the 1980s, a shadow cabinet minister has warned.

Wigan MP Lisa Nandy said people in the north feel like the government is “actively working against us” and stressed she had not “felt anger like this” since the 1980s.

The senior Labour figure led calls for the government to boost financial support for areas to be placed under tougher coronavirus restrictions under the three-tier local lockdown plan the prime minister is expected to reveal on Monday.

Nandy was backed by the Tory leader of Bolton council, David Greenhalgh, who called on Rishi Sunak to “at the very least” restore support to the levels of  the original furlough scheme, which saw the government cover 80% of workers’ wages.

The chancellor last week announced plans for a 67% wage subsidy but northern leaders have warned this does not go far enough and will lead to businesses “going under” and job losses.

But communities secretary Robert Jenrick suggested on Sunday that the government would not go further, insisting: “We can’t do everything.”

Johnson is also facing anger for failing to involve local leaders enough in decision-making, and because plans for local lockdowns, including pub and restaurant closures, leaked to the media days before they were due to be formally announced.

Nandy, the shadow foreign secretary, told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: “It’s really hard to explain how angry people are in the north of England about what has happened not just over the last few months but over the last few days.

“I haven’t felt anger like this towards the government since I was growing up here in the 1980s.

“People feel that they haven’t just been abandoned by the government, they now feel that the government is actively working against us.”

Nandy said many northern areas were into the third month of restrictions but Covid cases were still going up and businesses fear “death by a thousand cuts”.

She said: “If they carry on like this, briefing out new lockdown restrictions on a Thursday night and then going missing over the weekend... if they don’t do something quickly they are not just going to lose control of the virus but they are going to lose trust in what people are being told, and that is really, really serious.”

Greenhalgh said many businesses in Bolton have already been closed for three months with the lockdown on hospitality, with many jobs lost already and firms “on the brink”.

He told Marr that Johnson’s “build back better” agenda will be left in tatters unless more financial support is provided.

On the wage subsidy scheme Sunak set out last week, he said: “The idea that this money is only payable from the beginning of November and it could come to us as late as late November, early December, is just not good enough.”

Greenhalgh went on: “It has to at the very least be a package that returns to the furlough of the March lockdown and anything less is quite frankly unacceptable.

“Many of these businesses will simply go under and we can’t ‘build back better’ if we’ve lost some of these businesses.”

Nandy meanwhile confirmed Labour would attempt to force a vote on the local lockdown restrictions expected to be applied to the north and the financial package.

But she stressed the party would not seek to vote down government measures but instead “try and frame the terms of a debate and vote in the House of Commons so that there is an opportunity to put forwards an alternative support package”.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said Johnson would be breaking his election promise to “level up” the country unless he provides more economic help.

“If they continue with this, jobs will be lost, businesses will collapse, the fragile economies of the North will be shattered,” the Labour mayor told Times Radio.

“The government has a real choice here, if it proceeds on the path it is on, in my view, the central so-called mission of this government to level-up will be over.”

Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson revealed the city is “likely” to be placed in tier three – the toughest local lockdown likely to include pub and restaurant closures.

“That is going to have huge economic damage and damage that will take us back to the position this city was in in the 80s with large levels of unemployment, of people unemployed and it will set us back a long time,” he told Times Radio.

“Let’s make it absolutely clear here, if this was down in the south east in London, it wouldn’t be happening, it simply wouldn’t be tolerated.”

Jenrick defended the government’s financial support package, telling Marr: “They need to be seen in the context of everything else we’ve done.

“This country has put in place measures which compare extremely favourably to other countries.

“We can’t do everything, there is a limit to what the state can do here. But we are trying to support these communities.”