"Bambi" Burnham versus Warrior "Winston" Johnson would never end well. A bitter duel between the Greater Manchester Mayor and the Prime Minister – two giant egos, two men who both dreamed of running their party – but only one got it.
North versus South, posh old Etonian versus an ambitious local leader who claims to speak for hard working minimum wage earners.
Now victory (if we can call it that) has come for Boris after ten days of fighting that saw thousands more innocent citizens infected and hundreds in hospital beds in Greater Manchester.
It's time for the table, with the Prime Minister's victory ordering Manchester's bars, pubs and clubs to close their doors – or serve big meals with all those trendy cocktails. Traveling to and from the area is not recommended and households cannot mingle inside or outside.
For the past week, the demeanor and posing of these masters of media manipulation seemed more like scenes from a spaghetti western than a serious debate about how best to control a virus that seems unstoppable. The good, the bad, and the ugly. The price? Two handfuls of government money?
"Bambi" Burnham versus Warrior "Winston" Johnson would never end well. Pictured: Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham speaks to the media about the breakdown in talks with the government over funding the city
Eight days ago, when the number of Covid infections appeared to have doubled within a few days, Boris presented his new plan – the division of the country into stages with restrictions from one to three. The new rules would be applied “locally”.
Liverpool was instantly ranked in the top tier and received £ 30m in government funding to sweeten the burden of funding testing and tracing on top of existing government support programs. Liverpool's economy has plunged into free fall as a result and the locals are mutinous.
When it was Manchester's turn, Andy Burnham pleaded that the city was a special case and that the infections had peaked.
That's partly true – infections in the age groups under 30 have leveled off – but that could be because young people are not getting tested. The rate for those over 65 has been rising rapidly, although it is still much lower than it was at the height of the April pandemic.
Bambi Burnham has spent 10 days claiming that the closure of nightlife and entertainment will decimate the Manchester economy and that workers who are later laid off should be entitled to 80 percent of their salary (as when the lockdown began), not to the 67 percent currently on offer.
It's time for the table with the victory of the Prime Minister who ordered Manchester's bars, pubs and clubs to close their doors – or serve up big meals with all those trendy cocktails
He rightly points out that there is no guarantee that the restrictions will not apply for months and who can live on two-thirds of the minimum wage? Poverty, debt and homelessness will inevitably follow if rents and mortgages cannot be paid before Christmas.
The city could also be placed in an even higher restricted level, as people are not allowed to leave their homes if the R-rate does not drop.
Not only was this a fight for money, it was a chance to groan that the North is being treated unfairly, punished by a group of public schoolboys based in London.
Now the Burnham government will bypass and negotiate with the ten local council leaders in the Greater Manchester area in the hopes that they will accept more cash (albeit less than the £ 65 million originally requested) and encourage their neighborhoods to comply with the new rules.
It was depressing to see Boris announce his "victory". There is no fire, no sense of detail – he seems tired and looks washed out after 30 minutes. There was endless thanks to the NHS staff, to everyone who "made sacrifices," but no real fire in his stomach.
He did not reply to a local reporter asking if he had actually visited the area. If he wants people to follow his plans, he needs a better script. In Liverpool, young people gather in the streets every night to protest, and the same thing will happen in Manchester.
Bambi Burnham has spent 10 days claiming that the closure of nightlife and entertainment will hurt Manchester's economy and that workers who are later laid off should be entitled to 80 percent of their salary. Pictured: The Duke of Wellington pub in Manchester
A week ago, Boris had the opportunity to enforce a simple brief nationwide lockdown as proposed by Sage on September 21 and endorsed by Labor leader Keir Starmer. Andy Burnham agrees that this is preferable to local restrictions that are constantly changing.
Now nearly a third of the country is on either of the top two levels, and God knows what new rules will apply by the weekend. Some areas, such as the South West, East Anglia, and Kent, have extremely low rates of infection. So is it fair to punish them along with trouble spots like Liverpool, Manchester (and probably) London?
In the meantime, the leaders of Northern Ireland and Wales have tensed their muscles and launched their own "burns".
Boris opposes a national lockdown, claiming that his "local" strategy is similar to measures being adopted across Europe.
He believes that a focused approach is the best way to prevent old people from dying and to protect the NHS from being overburdened. But is it? The vast majority of mortals are people over 65 who have had other underlying medical conditions. As Prince William pointed out this week, pub closings and socializing will have serious implications for mental health.
A week ago, Boris had the opportunity to enforce a simple brief nationwide lockdown as proposed by Sage on September 21 and endorsed by Labor leader Keir Starmer. Andy Burnham agrees that this is preferable to local restrictions that are constantly changing
And it's not just the boys who feel selected – as a single woman living alone in London, the only thing I can do is eat and meet someone by creating a "bubble" – something most of my friends just ignore.
Six rules are routinely disregarded in the city centers each night, and now the police are expected to patrol them and enforce civil obedience. Levels and curfews only delay the virus' inevitable path until a vaccine is freely available.
There is now a great danger that a second-rate opportunist and failed politician (Andy Burnham) will emerge as the challenger and leader for the (rightly) hacked people in a huge part of the country.
It has echoes of the 1980s again. North against south. Social cohesion down the drain.
Since Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland are already in the highest lockout conditions, it might be better if we do a British circuit break together every two weeks.
Covid has grown from a threat to our way of life to an opportunity for politicians to improve their credentials and stay in control. Nicola in Scotland, the little guy in Wales, wants to prove that they can be more strict and determined than Boris.
The Prime Minister may have won the first lap against Burnham but he doesn't seem able to drive the entire distance. Now he has to go through the whole rigmarole, advice for advice, as the lock creeps south.
If a deadly virus is just an excuse for Chancellors to score political points, there is only one group of losers – the public.
If Boris is to persuade us to abide by his ever-growing jumble of rules and regulations, he'd better find a fire in his stomach. Has the great Lothario considered taking testosterone supplementation?
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