'Suspicion' Of 'Political Interference' Over Local Lockdowns, Says Labour

Jonathan Ashworth says Tory ministers' constituencies spared restrictions despite some having higher infection rates.
Jonathan Ashworth, the Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care
Jonathan Ashworth, the Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care
Toby Melville / Reuters

Labour says a “suspicion of political interference” hangs over local lockdown decisions as many Tory ministers’ constituencies have been spared restrictions.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth urged the government to publish more Covid-19 infection data as it was “not clear why” places were chosen.

He said while huge swathes of the north were under lockdown, some areas with higher case rates – such as communities secretary Robert Jenrick’s Newark and chief whip Mark Spencer’s Sherwood – do not have restrictions.

The government has said lockdown measures are being imposed to drive down infections.

“Because there is no clear guidelines as to why an area goes into restrictions and how an area comes out of restrictions then there is a suspicion that there is political interference – I hope there isn’t,” Ashworth said, speaking on the BBC Andrew Marr Show on Sunday.

“But until the government publish clear guidelines, that suspicion will always linger.”

The North East, Merseyside, and huge swathes of Lancashire and Leicestershire are under lockdown.

Saying there appeared to be a “red wall lockdown” emerging, Ashworth said: “What we need to see is local authority leaders properly involved, we need to see local councillors properly involved, we need to see the local health service involved as well.”

In an interview on Sunday, also with Marr, prime minister Boris Johnson warned it would be “bumpy” until Christmas.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, meanwhile, has said the government is “in danger of losing the public in the north of England”.

Speaking to the Sophy Ridge On Sunday show on Sky News, the former Labour minister said: “We need a bit of a reset here so that people can clearly understand what’s being asked.”

He added: “I certainly feel this week that we’ve reached a bit of a turning point with all of this.

“The government are really in danger of losing the public in the north of England.

“And actually if they carry on imposing restrictions on the north without proper support for the businesses and the employees affected in the North, we will see a winter of levelling down and the North-South divide getting bigger.”

On Saturday, fresh fears were mounting about the virus’ spread after almost 13,000 new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in the UK in the 24 hours up to 9am Saturday - a jump of nearly 6,000 from the day before.

The official dashboard that records cases said the surge was due to a technical glitch and includes some additional cases from the period between September 24 and October 1.

It did not specify exactly which days the extra cases were from or which areas, however.


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