Boris 'to force Manchester into tier 3 today' despite backlash in North

Boris Johnson is reportedly set to ignore a ministerial rebellion by plunging Greater Manchester into a tier three lockdown today.

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham yesterday accused the Government of trying make to make his region the ‘sacrificial lamb’ by imposing the strictest measures without enough financial support.

Despite the mayor threatening legal action over the experimental measures being ‘carried out on the cheap’, it is understood the prime minister is set to put the region into the ‘very high’ risk category with or without Burnham’s approval today, the Daily Telegraph reports.

This would mean Greater Manchester would join the Liverpool City Region – so far the only area under the toughest measures – in tier three, with all pubs and bars forced to close.

It is understood leaders in Lancashire are also close to siding with the PM to move the region up to a tier three category.

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The move comes despite senior Tories siding with Burnham over the measures, with northern leaders calling for the chancellor to restore the furlough scheme in full to support businesses that are forced to close.

But one Government source told the paper that extra financial backing is ‘not happening,’ adding: ‘They are using this as an opportunity to leverage some more cash out of us bit it won’t work. We are not going to move on this.’

In an impassioned press conference yesterday, Burnham accused the Government of treating the North ‘with contempt’ and said there was no scientific evidence that the three-tier strategy would work.

The Labour politician said the deputy chief medical officer for England, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, had told regional leaders that only a nationwide lockdown would be guaranteed to have an impact on spiralling infection rates.

Professor Jeremy Farrar, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said the current base level of restrictions were the ‘worst of all worlds’ as they inflicted economic damage while not going far enough to suppress the virus.

Burnham said on Thursday: ‘We have to protect the health of the nation but let’s do it as one nation, and not make the North of England the sacrificial lamb for an ill-thought-through Downing Street policy which doesn’t make sense in the real world.’

‘Greater Manchester will stand firm. We are fighting back for fairness,’ he added.

The health secretary called for party politics to be ‘set aside’ in order to agree measures that could control the virus, but a string of Tory MPs came out to rebel against the prime minister and his senior ministers.

Former minister Steve Baker said there was even growing concern among the ministerial ranks about the Government’s handling of the crisis.

He said it was the prime minister, Matt Hancock and Michael Gove who were the only ones driving the current local lockdown approach.

Baker told international press: ‘Out of 365 Tory members of parliament, I would think that probably about 350 or more are opposed to this strategy.

‘This is by no means a libertarian insurrection. I can tell you that, in private, many ministers are egging on the rebels.’

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the influential 1922 Committee of backbench Tories, said it would be ‘very foolish’ for Greater Manchester to move into tier three.

The Altrincham and Sale West MP told Times Radio: ‘We have a very clear demonstration at the moment that if you have no support amongst members of parliament, no support from the council leaders, and opposition from the Mayor as well, there clearly isn’t the broad consent for this measure that would be needed.

‘And I think it would be a very foolish thing to do.’

It comes as there is growing pressure for the Government to impose a two-week circuit breaker lockdown, which experts said should have been introduced last month.

The director of the Wellcome Trust told the BBC’s Newscast podcast the temporary nationwide measures should have been introduced weeks ago and urged ministers to ‘act’ as soon as possible.

His comments come as half the population of England, 26.7 million people, will be put under stricter lockdown measures from Saturday.

London will move into tier two from midnight, banning people from separate households mixing indoors – including in pubs and restaurants.

Essex, Elmbridge, Barrow-in-Furness, York, North East Derbyshire, Erewash and Chesterfield will also move into the second tier of measures.

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