‘Everyone is fighting’ – how Downing Street lost its grip on a divided nation | Politics

When he addressed the nation on 23 March to announce a national lockdown, Boris Johnson knew he had most of the British people with him. “Each and every one of us is now obliged to join together to halt the spread of this disease,” the prime minister said in his TV broadcast. “We will beat the coronavirus and we will beat it together.”

Six and a half months on, as he prepares to announce the introduction of more restrictions and a new three-tier system across the country – at what ministers say is a “critical” moment – hospitals are filling up and death rates are rising once more.

Unlike March, however, calls for the British people to unite behind a response directed from No 10 no longer command the attention or respect they did then. The many changes in rules and regulations have left people confused and choosing to rely on their own instincts as much as on what politicians tell them.

Trust in the government to handle the pandemic, say local leaders who monitor the crisis daily, has been shot to pieces. “I would say that trust in authority has completely gone,” said one senior official at the heart of the fight against Covid-19 in the north of England on Saturday.

That crisis of confidence in central government is borne out in the latest Opinium poll for the Observer on Sunday. It shows that just 31% approve of the way the government has handled Covid-19. At the end of March the approval rate was above 60%.

National targets on testing have not been met. False expectations have been set. Rules have changed at dizzying speed. “One day people are told one thing, the next another to the point where they have stopped even trying to follow,” said one public health director.

This weekend, when unity is needed, the cabinet is split. Tory MPs are split. The media is split. Public opinion is split. And council and public health leaders in some of the biggest cities of the north and Midlands are in revolt. So what can be done?



Andy Burnham, mayor of Greater Manchester, sanitises his hands before a memorial service for the victims of coronavirus at Manchester Cathedral in July. Photograph: WPA/Getty Images

On Friday the prime minister’s close adviser Edward Lister and senior civil servants were locked in long, tense virtual meetings with local health chiefs and council leaders, trying to get them to agree to the new three-tier approach.

After two hours of talks, one of those who took part said he and many other leaders in the north of England were so furious at what took place that they were thinking of issuing a statement refusing to comply with government orders.

“They say they are listening to us but they are not. What they seem to want to do is punish the north. The extra financial support announced by the chancellor is welcome but it is two-thirds of people’s wages, not 80% which it was before. This is not enough for people and the businesses which will have to close.” Another official involved in talks with the government over the weekend said: “It is toxic and everyone is fighting.”

The reason for the anger, on display at a press conference of northern mayors on Saturday, is twofold. First the mayors demand to know why the government will only pay two-thirds of the wages of people in businesses in their areas that have to close as a result of the latest decisions by No 10, whereas they paid for 80% under the national lockdown. This, they say, is “grossly unfair” and discriminatory. It will leave many in the hospitality sector earning way below the minimum wage and unable therefore to pay their rent through no fault of their own. Many will therefore face eviction in the run-up to Christmas. Second, they do not see why central government should have the power to shut their pubs and hospitality venues, when local politicians and health leaders could do so themselves if granted so-called “summary closure powers”. In essence they want the power to make those decisions themselves.

For months council leaders and mayors have been asking ministers to allow them to fight the pandemic locally, with their own test and trace systems, rather than having decisions dictated from the centre. Mayors such as Andy Burnham in Greater Manchester have also called for greater financial help for people on low incomes required to self-isolate, arguing that without it many would not do so as they would feel they could not afford to. Leaders in the regions wanted more central government help – but it had to be help to allow them to manage their own responses, tailored to local needs.

A customer in Liverpool enjoys a beer outside.



A customer in Liverpool enjoys a beer outside. Photograph: Lindsey Parnaby/AFP/Getty Images

This is not what they were hearing from No 10 this weekend, however. “There are lots of warm words,” said one senior figure. “But they are not listening. They are telling us to agree what they want. There is no consultation. We have different factors in different areas. In some university cities like Newcastle and Nottingham the virus is mainly being spread among students and has yet to spread to older people. In other areas like Merseyside we hear it has spread to older people. We need the ability to respond locally.”

In some cases local leaders believe restrictions do not go far enough. Liverpool’s Labour mayor Joe Anderson saidon Saturday that he expected his city – where there are currently 600 cases per 100,000 people – to be placed in tier three, under the highest set of restrictions. This would mean closing all the city’s pubs from Wednesday, though not its restaurants. Anderson said, however, that government would be wrong to allow Liverpool’s bars and pubs to stay open until Wednesday because the infection was spreading so fast in the city. In Merseyside things are so serious there are suggestions that local hospitals are already resigned to cancelling all elective surgery in the coming days because Covid admissions are rising so fast. Anderson said his other worry was that the public no longer listened to diktats from London. “I’m not convinced people trust the government’s decisions.”

On Monday the prime minister hopes to be able to announce the new three-tier system to parliament and to have it voted on within days. Many of his own MPs are dubious that stricter lockdowns are necessary. To add to the confused picture Labour has said it will abstain in a vote expected early next week on extending the 10pm curfew for pubs across England.

It is not just the north and Midlands where tighter restrictions appear imminent. The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, warned people to expect new measures to be announced in the capital this coming week. “My prediction is, there will be additional restrictions being brought in because we’ve got to make sure we don’t have a situation with the NHS being overwhelmed and lives being lost.”

Another local health director told the Observer that to make any of these restrictions stick, faith had to be restored in those announcing the changes: “The only way is to do that is locally with local decisions. It is too late to rebuild trust at national level.”


Source link

156 thoughts on “‘Everyone is fighting’ – how Downing Street lost its grip on a divided nation | Politics

  1. Howdy! I know this is kinda off topic however , I’d figured I’d ask. Would you be interested in exchanging links or maybe guest writing a blog article or vice-versa? My blog covers a lot of the same subjects as yours and I think we could greatly benefit from each other. If you happen to be interested feel free to shoot me an e-mail. I look forward to hearing from you! Excellent blog by the way!

  2. I’ve been surfing online more than three hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It’s pretty worth enough for me. Personally, if all site owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the net will be much more useful than ever before.

  3. I feel this is among the such a lot vital information for me. And i am satisfied reading your article. But should remark on some normal things, The site style is great, the articles is in point of fact great : D. Excellent activity, cheers

  4. I have been browsing online greater than 3 hours lately, yet I never discovered any fascinating article like yours. It is lovely price sufficient for me. In my view, if all webmasters and bloggers made just right content material as you did, the internet shall be much more useful than ever before.

  5. Good day I am so excited I found your site, I really found you by accident, while I was looking on Aol for something else, Regardless I am here now and would just like to say cheers for a incredible post and a all round enjoyable blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to look over it all at the moment but I have bookmarked it and also added your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read a lot more, Please do keep up the awesome work.

  6. I as well as my friends were found to be reviewing the nice ideas located on your site and then all of the sudden I got a terrible suspicion I never thanked you for those tips. My women are actually for this reason joyful to see all of them and already have in reality been loving those things. Thank you for being really considerate and for deciding upon this form of very good subject matter most people are really wanting to learn about. My very own sincere regret for not saying thanks to you earlier.

  7. Good blog! I truly love how it is easy on my eyes and the data are well written. I’m wondering how I could be notified whenever a new post has been made. I’ve subscribed to your RSS feed which must do the trick! Have a nice day!

  8. With havin so much content and articles do you ever run into any issues of plagorism or copyright infringement? My blog has a lot of unique content I’ve either authored myself or outsourced but it appears a lot of it is popping it up all over the web without my agreement. Do you know any methods to help protect against content from being stolen? I’d really appreciate it.

  9. This is the right blog for anyone who desires to seek out out about this topic. You notice so much its nearly onerous to argue with you (not that I really would want…HaHa). You undoubtedly put a brand new spin on a topic thats been written about for years. Nice stuff, simply great!

  10. With havin so much written content do you ever run into any problems of plagorism or copyright infringement? My blog has a lot of unique content I’ve either created myself or outsourced but it appears a lot of it is popping it up all over the web without my agreement. Do you know any solutions to help stop content from being ripped off? I’d genuinely appreciate it.

  11. I just like the helpful info you provide for your articles. I will bookmark your blog and take a look at again right here regularly. I’m moderately certain I will be told lots of new stuff right right here! Best of luck for the next!

  12. Hi there! This is kind of off topic but I need some advice from an established blog. Is it very difficult to set up your own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty fast. I’m thinking about setting up my own but I’m not sure where to start. Do you have any tips or suggestions? Thank you

  13. Hey there, You have performed a fantastic job. I’ll definitely digg it and in my opinion recommend to my friends. I am sure they’ll be benefited from this website.

  14. Excellent post. I was checking continuously this weblog and I’m impressed! Extremely useful information specifically the remaining section 🙂 I deal with such information a lot. I was seeking this particular information for a long time. Thanks and good luck.

  15. Thanks a lot for sharing this with all people you actually recognise what you’re speaking approximately! Bookmarked. Please additionally seek advice from my website =). We will have a hyperlink change arrangement between us!

  16. Heya i’m for the primary time here. I found this board and I to find It truly helpful & it helped me out a lot. I am hoping to give one thing back and aid others such as you aided me.

  17. Nice post. I learn something tougher on different blogs everyday. It is going to at all times be stimulating to learn content from other writers and practice just a little one thing from their store. I’d want to make use of some with the content material on my weblog whether or not you don’t mind. Natually I’ll offer you a hyperlink on your net blog. Thanks for sharing.

  18. Good day! I know this is somewhat off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you using for this site? I’m getting sick and tired of WordPress because I’ve had issues with hackers and I’m looking at options for another platform. I would be great if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

  19. Hi there, i read your blog from time to time and i own a similar one and i was just curious if you get a lot of spam comments? If so how do you reduce it, any plugin or anything you can suggest? I get so much lately it’s driving me crazy so any assistance is very much appreciated.

  20. I would like to express my admiration for your kind-heartedness in support of those people who absolutely need help with this particular niche. Your personal dedication to passing the solution up and down had been unbelievably beneficial and have always made most people much like me to achieve their pursuits. This invaluable help and advice can mean a great deal a person like me and much more to my peers. Best wishes; from each one of us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *