Who in Labour is backing a second lockdown - and who is not?
Many of the party’s northern mayors have spoken out against new coronavirus rules
Keir Starmer’s decision to back calls for a national circuit-breaker lockdown in response to the UK’s rising Covid-19 infection rate has put the Labour leader at odds with Boris Johnson - and also several prominent members in his own party.
In Westminster, Labour is pushing a reluctant Conservative government towards tighter controls, but those positions are reversed in many northern English cities. Several Labour mayors and council leaders have argued against new lockdown measures and have accused the prime minister of imposing unnecessary restrictions on their regions.
Steve Rotheram, the Labour metro mayor of the Liverpool city region, has “questioned the wisdom of closing gyms and leisure centres as part of the tier three Covid-19 lockdown for the area”, says the Liverpool Echo.
While urging the public to “follow the guidance on social distancing, face coverings and washing hands”, Rotheram has accused Johnson of using the North as a “petri dish” to test closures affecting the hospitality industry.
“What we’ve asked for is the scientific evidence that supports the contention by our national government that these are the only measures that will work in our local area,” the Liverpool mayor told Channel 4 News.
Greater Manchester is expected to join Liverpool in tier three soon, but “local leaders are resisting”, says the Manchester Evening News. Andy Burnham, the city’s Labour mayor, is among those “arguing that there is no evidence that transmission in hospitality is driving transmission”, the paper adds.
“Burnham has vowed to consider legal action if the strictest tier of coronavirus restrictions is imposed on the region,” reports Sky News.
Like Liverpool’s Rotheram, Burnham has also criticised the manner in which restrictions have been introduced, along with their economic impact. At an online press conference yesterday, he vowed not to “cave into the pressure” to accept a new lockdown and said that decisions were being taken “by imposition, not consent”.
In London, by contrast, Labour mayor Sadiq Khan had actively supported tighter restrictions even before the decision was announced today to move the capital from tier one to two. Under the new regulations, households may no longer mix indoors, but restaurants and pubs may remain open.
“The mayor has previously insisted London should move as a whole into higher restrictions despite variable rates across the capital,” the Daily Mail reports.
Khan was an early proponent of the nationwide shutdown earlier this year and has also backed Starmer’s call for another UK-wide lockdown to coincide with half-term.
“I think there is a virtue in the government following the advice from Sage [the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies], and having a national circuit-breaker for two or so weeks beginning next week,” Khan told ITV News on Tuesday.