Rishi Sunak insisted he was a "Northern Chancellor" today as he tried to stave off a major revolt by Red Wall Tory MPs who were angry at how ministers were handling the second wave of coronavirus, which was attracting millions were forced into a strict lockdown.
Mr Sunak said he shared the "frustrations" of more than 50 Conservative backers – many of whom have only been in the House of Commons since December – who today sparked their frustration with Boris Johnson for calling for a Covid exit strategy for areas affected by a Are facing economic crisis at the social end.
In the greatest Tory challenge for Mr Johnson's leadership since the general election of the members of the newly formed Northern Research Group (NRG) warned them not to argue a bit with Downing Street and suggested they could vote as a bloc against the legislation.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, they warned that the coronavirus crisis threatened his promise to "level" the country and "send the north in the opposite direction".
The boiling over of a hitherto simmering dispute over the government's stance towards northern England prompted the Chancellor to intervene this afternoon.
The multi-millionaire MP for Richmond, Yorkshire, dubbed the "Maharaja of the Valleys," told BBC Radio 1's Newsbeat: “I am a MP from the north. I represent a constituency in North Yorkshire, south of Teesside, and am also a chancellor in the north.
"I absolutely share my colleague's frustration with limitations. Obviously, that's frustrating when you have to live among these things and want to know when it will be over."
“The conversation can't always be about what's going on in London, as wonderful as London is. Whether a voter of mine in rural North Yorkshire, hanging out in Teeside, you should have access to a number of options and that means we will continue to feel determined to invest in infrastructure, education and skills too invest to create new jobs and bring broadband to rural areas.
“But I also share your passion and your ambition for the north. I want my constituents to make sure they have the same opportunities as everyone else. All of these things are important to us, they remain important to us, and people should rightly keep fighting for them and we will make sure we deliver them. "
At the same time, Mr Johnson is facing the dissatisfaction of MPs in other parts of the country as more areas face the toughest Tier 3 lockdown. London is also in Tier 2, with restricted mobility and a curfew on pubs.
Dan Poulter, MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, an NHS doctor and former health minister, endorsed a report calling on the UK to copy New Zealand by suppressing and eliminating the virus rather than trying to do so live to the standard.
The NRG, led by former Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry, wants the Prime Minister to publish a "clear roadmap" for Tier 3 areas to end lockdown, as well as an economic recovery plan for Northern England.
NRG member Simon Fell, who has been the only Conservative MP for Barrow and Furness in Cumbria since the December elections, told Times Radio that the group is trying to "essentially keep the government's promise in the north".
He insisted that they "want to be a kind and helpful voice," but added: "It will be a while before number 10 is put in the position where they understand what our constituents hope and what they expect. " out of us, but that's a good talk I think. & # 39;
He added, "When we look at issues like Covid and the restrictions that are put in place. You know, we need to understand that some of these things are disproportionately affecting the North."
The multi-millionaire MP for Richmond, Yorkshire, dubbed the Maharajah of the Valleys, told BBC Radio 1's Newsbeat: "I'm a MP from the North. I represent a constituency in North Yorkshire, south of Teesside, and I am also a Chancellor in the North . & # 39;
Former Minister Jake Berry leads a Northern Research Group of Tory MPs and is calling on the government to put in place a roadmap for ending local lockdowns
NRG member Simon Fell (right), who has been the only Conservative MP for Barrow and Furness in Cumbria since the December elections, told Times Radio that the group is trying to "essentially keep the government honest with what it promises in the north." ". Dan Poulter (left), MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, NHS doctor and former health minister, endorsed a report calling on the UK to copy New Zealand by suppressing and eliminating the virus rather than trying to live with it & # 39 ;.
The newly formed Northern Research Group (NRG) of conservative backers wrote to Mr Johnson warning of the coronavirus crisis, threatening with his promise to "level" the country and "send the north in the opposite direction".
Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the Tory backbench, urges ministers to consider the greater impact of bans
Ministers need to start providing data on the “real cost of Covid-19” to people's lives, including the throttling of NHS supplies and the economic impact of the lockdown, a top Tory warned today.
Sir Graham Brady said the government has "a duty to serve the best interests of the nation as a whole" but it cannot do so without significantly improving the data at its disposal.
Sir Graham, chairman of the 1922 Backbench Conservatives Committee, is the MP for Altringham and Sale West in Greater Manchester, which was placed in the highest Level 3 Ineligibility last week.
He said the Department of Health and Welfare should compile and publish data on deaths caused by restricted access to care and that the Treasury Department should do the same for "closed businesses and lost jobs".
He warned that given Labor demands for a blackout lockdown and the increasing number of cities being put into lockdowns to very high establishments, the "extraordinary burden of these measures on the country" must be recognized.
& # 39; The cost of blocking goes well beyond the public accounts. Suicide rates have increased. People lack life-saving measures and the necessary care, ”he wrote in a comment for Conservative Home's website.
“Millions have mental health problems because they are cut off from friends, family and other support networks due to limitations.
“Domestic violence increases as women are trapped at home with violent partners.
“Meanwhile, young people, who are among the least at risk from Covid-19, are paying a heavy price.
“School has been suspended, defining moments and milestones have been missed, and now many are confined to their dormitories.
“Does anyone honestly believe this will be sustainable for a year or more? The lockdown raves we saw this summer will just be the beginning.
Mr Berry insisted this morning that the letter was not a "revolt" against the Prime Minister, but it will have scared number 10 because many of the disaffected MPs are from the Red Wall seats that drove Mr Johnson to victory last December.
Mr Berry said the government needs to better provide the public with "easy to digest" data to show how the fight against Covid-19 is progressing in order to better get people to abide by the rules.
The letter sparked an immediate magic offensive by Economy Minister Nadhim Zahawi as he praised the group's MPs for being "champions for their region".
By the end of the week, around eight million people in England were living under the toughest Covid-19 restrictions after officials confirmed four separate parts of Nottinghamshire will be put into a third stage lockdown after three days of crisis from midnight talks with the government .
Officials have agreed to take draconian measures in Nottingham City, Gedling, Broxtowe and Rushcliffe to shut down the gearbox.
This means that all pubs and bars must close unless they serve meals while people are forbidden to mingle with someone they don't live with indoors or in private gardens and beer gardens.
Ministers finally confirmed yesterday that from today Warrington will also be subject to the strictest of measures.
The government's coronavirus system has created a north-south divide as all of the areas with the strictest restrictions are in the north and midlands.
In addition to calling for a "roadmap" for the lockdown, the Northern Research Group urged the government to prioritize key infrastructure projects and accelerate job creation in the area.
Mr Berry this morning denied allegations of a Tory rebellion, telling the BBC's Radio 4 Today: “It's not a revolt, I don't know how it can be a revolt when MPs from the North write to the Prime Minister, to work with him on handing over his exciting manifesto, for which he has a mandate from December 2019.
& # 39; We call on the government to reaffirm its commitment to stimulating the north by presenting a growth strategy for the north.
& # 39; The reason we really want to focus on this is because, like my own constituency in East Lancashire, we are a manufacturing powerhouse in Rossendale and Darwen and probably against all odds if you look at the PMI for the PMI See last month's barometer We are growing faster than London in all parts of the north, including East Lancashire. I think this really shows the government that by creating this bespoke growth plan for the north, the north can lead the way when it comes to building better and better that we seek. & # 39;
Mr Berry said the government needs to better present the data to the public behind its response to the coronavirus.
"First and foremost, it's good that the government has identified the metrics that will allow areas to exit Tier Three and Tier Two, respectively," he said.
“What I personally want to see is information that is provided in an easy-to-digest, consumer-friendly manner that can show people a way out of these restrictions.
A letter from the group to Number 10 sparked an immediate magic offensive by the ministers when Nadhim Zahawi said the MPs were "champions for their region".
WHAT ARE THE THREE RULES? AND WHEN DO YOU COME INTO FORCE?
Warrington was subjected to the third level lockdown rules from midnight last night.
Nottingham City, Gedling, Broxtowe and Rushcliffe will be part of the third stage from 12:01 a.m. on Thursday.
- People are not allowed to come into contact with anyone they do not live with or with whom they have not formed a bubble of support, indoors, in private gardens, or in most of the outdoor locations where hospitality and ticketed events are held.
- People are not allowed to socialize in a group of more than six people in an outdoor public area such as a park or beach, in the country, in a public garden, or at a sports venue.
- All pubs and bars must close unless they are serving essential meals. Alcohol may only be served next to such a meal.
- People should try to avoid traveling outside of very high alert or entering an area with very high alert except for work, education or welfare, or to travel through on an extended trip.
- Residents should avoid staying in any other part of the UK and others should avoid staying in a very alarmed area.
“The reason we wrote to the Prime Minister and asked him to work with him on his agenda for advancement as a MP is because we have had restrictions similar to Tier Three in many areas of the North since August, almost identical to Tier Two, and that is Why do we want to revive the Prime Minister's level-up agenda by working with the government to make a difference for the community we represent as MPs in the north? & # 39;
Mr Berry, who represents the Rossendale and Darwen constituencies, said better public awareness could lead to increased compliance with Covid-19 rules.
"Well, I think we need to publish consistent and clear data that shows not only the council presidents but the general public and businesses how they are dealing with this pandemic," he said.
“When you visit a church hall or scout hut around the country, you see the thermometer on the wall that tells them how to get their new fund of funds.
“Motivating people to provide them with data, take them with them and let them understand that they are part of this great fight that we are waging against Covid will, in my opinion, improve compliance, and also a way out of these restrictions is obviously part of A Path To Recovery that we wrote to the Prime Minister seeking as a group of MPs from the North. & # 39;
The Northern Research Group's letter sparked an immediate magic offensive by ministers when Mr. Zahawi told Sky News this morning, “I think they are rightly masters for their region.
& # 39; They want to make sure that their strategy for the power plant in the north that Jake Berry and others have worked so hard on, with myself, I am the local growth minister and the minister of economics and industry, is implemented, and that is absolutely our focus.
“You will see this come through as I said in our industrial strategy refresh.
& # 39; The Industrial Strategy was a great job done in 2017 in a world of near full employment.
“We're entering a whole different world today after the pandemic, and that's the point they're trying to make I think. As I told you, judge us by what we do. & # 39;
Mr Zahawi told LBC Radio that Tier 3 rules must be reviewed every 28 days and that the way out of the top tier is to get the spread of the virus under control.
The full letter from the Northern Research Group orchestrated by Rep for Rossendale and Darwen Jake Berry
The Northern Research Group letter gives Boris Johnson a big headache, which he saw yesterday while visiting the hospital in Reading
He said, “There is good news. I have to be very careful about this … but what I would say, if you look at the dates that we work really well together on, the rate of increase has slowed down.
"It's still too high and we need to keep protecting our hospitals, making sure we're saving lives, protecting the NHS and of course protecting livelihoods and businesses, which is why this is a balancing act."
He added, "It is a choice between two harms – harming the virus and harming the economy and livelihoods, which ultimately leads to harm to health too."
Mr Berry told number 10 overnight that our party's return to government in December was won on the backs of hard-working people in constituencies like ours who supported the Conservatives for the first time in a generation and did so on the promise not to be forgotten be & # 39 ;.
"We cannot forget that we must deliver on our commitments in these elections to strengthen the northern communities and create opportunities in our region," he added.
Around 40 Conservative MPs have publicly signed Mr Berry's letter, and another 14 have had their names edited.
Mr Johnson won an 80-seat majority in last year's general election and turned many traditional Labor constituencies – which made up the so-called Red Wall – blue.
Some MPs have raised concerns that these newly won seats could be returned to Labor in the next election if the government fails to deliver on its promise to "level" the country.
A spokesman for Number 10 said: "We are absolutely determined to improve across the country and rebuild better after the coronavirus.
"We stood in the last election with solemn pledges to improve people's lives and while the pandemic has resulted in 2020 not being the year we have all been hoping for, our ambitions for the country remain unchanged."
Labour's shadow Treasury Secretary Bridget Phillipson said: "Even Boris Johnson's own MPs know that he cannot be trusted to keep his promises.
& # 39; The government has treated the local communities with contempt.
"The decision not to extend free school meals is the clearest sign that the Conservatives have the wrong priorities and are not on the side of British families."
Pressure on the prime minister from North Tory MPs came as North Council presidents in areas moving to the third tier raised concerns about the amount of government funding they have been given to keep local businesses alive .
Warrington Labor Council chairman Russ Bowden defended the deal made with the government but suggested that he would have asked for more money when the agency stepped into the top tier.
He admitted that "we asked a bigger question than the one we received from the government," but denied that it was a "roll-over case."
Warrington Council will receive a financial assistance package of £ 1.68 million to help trace and enforce contacts and £ 4.2 million in business support from the government.
Mr Bowden told ITV's Good Morning Britain, "Ultimately we had to make a phone call whether we wanted to accept it or not, that's what a negotiation is about."
Meanwhile, Alderman David Mellen, chairman of Nottingham City Council, said it was "hard to tell" whether the city had received enough support as all areas were given a "flat rate".
He told BBC Radio 4's Today program: “I think we have additional responsibilities for running a big city, and the city center in particular has additional needs.
"I'm not sure all of this will be covered in what the government promised us."
He said costs and lost income from the first wave of Covid-19 "were not fully covered as promised," meaning budgets are "tight and overloaded".
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