Greater Manchester Mayor Holding the Government ‘Over a Barrel,’ Dominic Raab

October 16, 2020 Updated: October 16, 2020

Foreign Minister Dominic Raab on Friday said that Andy Burnham is trying to “hold the Government over a barrel,” as the standoff between the government and Great Manchester continues.

Burnham,  the Greater Manchester Mayor made a statement on Thursday saying local leaders “have unanimously opposed the government’s plans for Tier 3” lockdown unless affected workers and businesses get “proper compensation.”

Speaking on Friday on the BBC’s breakfast programme, Raab accused Burnham of holding up necessary measures over money and politics.

“We can’t have a situation as we have seen in Manchester where Andy Burnham is effectively trying to hold the Government over a barrel over money and politics when actually we need to take action,” Raab said.

He said local lockdown is in the interest of the people of Manchester.

“The cases there are 470 per 100,000 so it is very serious, and we must take action in the interest of the people of Manchester and the wider area,” he said. “If we take those targeted actions in those areas most affected … we get through this and we avoid the national level lockdown.”

Raab said it’s not appropriate for Burnham to be “pulling up the drawbridge.”

“There have been all sorts of discussions with Manchester. If Manchester, and if Andy Burnham is just pulling up the drawbridge and saying: we’re not going to proceed unless more money is coming in. I don’t think that that’s an appropriate way to proceed,” Raab said.

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham arrives at Number 10 Downing Street in London, on April 1, 2019. (Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

Burnham responded to Raab’s accusation on Twitter.

“It’s not about what we want for ourselves, @DominicRaab. It’s about what we want for low-paid and self-employed people everywhere: fairness.”

The mayor had said the previous day that the deputy chief medical officer (DCMO) told him that local restrictions don’t stand much chance and only a nationwide lockdown can work effectively in halting the spread of CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus.

He said the government was asking Greater Manchester leaders to “gamble” local jobs, homes, businesses, and the economy on a strategy that doesn’t work.

Raab told the BBC that the government has been “generous” and that Burnham should “do the right thing.”

“We’ve put in a very generous package of support, obviously those higher risk areas effective [sic] will get more support for testing, for tracing, for the jobs and businesses. That’s right. We support all that,” Raab said.

“But we can’t have a situation where Andy Burnham is effectively saying unless you give us what we want. We’re not going to do the right thing in terms of following the new rules which will protect the very people of Manchester that he’s elected to represent.”

When talking to Sky News later, Raab said the government will “keep talking and we’ll keep working.

“Obviously in the last resort the Government has the powers to proceed in any event, but we would much rather work with the local leaders if at all possible.”

Burham had said on Thursday that local leaders will “respect the law of the land,” but would consider legal routes to fight the restrictions.

Joe Anderson Liverpool
Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson takes part in a press conference in Manchester, England, on Sept. 16, 2016. (Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images)

Also on Friday, Joe Anderson, the Mayor of Liverpool, the first city to have entered tier 3 lockdown, said he never supported the package.

“I hope ministers are watching,” Anderson told Sky News.

“To try and tell people we supported this package is an absolute blatant lie. I challenged the closure of gyms, we talked about the hospitality sector being hit. ”

He said it wasn’t fair that only the hospitality sector has to close while it shares equal blame for infections with schools and higher education, retail, and the community.

After England went into national lockdown in March, Finance Minister Rishi Sunak shelled out billions to pay 80 percent of the wages or average income of “non-essential” employees and self-employed workers.

By the end of July, the UK’s public debt has passed £2 trillion ($2.62 trillion) for the first time, and surpassed the country’s GDP for the first time since 1961, when the UK was still recovering from World War II.

As the furlough scheme winds down at the end of October, Sunak announced on Oct. 9 another six-month scheme, paying up to two-thirds of each employee’s salary, with a cap of £2,100 ($2,724.33) a month, if they work for companies that are forced to close temporarily.