More than 50 Tory MPs have lashed out at the Prime Minister, warning that Northern constituencies risk being left behind unless there is a clear strategy for leaving local lockdown restrictions.
MPs from parts of England currently under Tier 3 restrictions have written to Boris Johnson to warn him that his “leveling up” agenda risks being undermined by crippling restrictions in the North.
Johnson’s pledge to “level up” the nation was a key component of the Conservative party manifesto at last year’s General Election.
Fifty-four Tory MPs, who make up the newly founded Northern Research Group (NRG), said coronavirus threatens to “send the North into reverse” unless Johnson formulates a clear route back down the three-tier system.
“The virus has exposed in sharp relief the deep structural and systemic disadvantage faced by our communities and it threatens to continue to increase the disparity between the north and south still further,” the MPs said.
“Northern parts of our country were among the first to be significantly affected by the Covid outbreak, and now many communities have been put back under severe restrictions.”
The NRG, founded by Jake Berry, former minister for the Northern Powerhouse, is made up of several Tory MPs who scooped up traditional Labour red wall seats in the North.
The MPs warned that without “significant” support for local regions, coronavirus “could be paid for by the downgrading of the leveling up agenda”.
“We believe this would threaten to undermine the government’s hard-won mandate in December, at a time when the political and economic case for the leveling-up agenda we have been elected to deliver has never been more essential,” they added.
It comes as Warrington last night joined Liverpool, Manchester and large parts of Yorkshire under the highest alert level, with Nottingham set to enter Tier 3 from midnight on Thursday.
The latest Tier 3 additions mean more than 7.9m people in England are currently living under the toughest restrictions, which demand a ban on household mixing both indoor and outdoors and the closure of pubs that do not serve a “substantial meal”.
A further 19.6m across England are living under Tier Two measures, meaning a ban on indoor household mixing.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “We are absolutely committed to levelling up across the country and building back better after coronavirus. We stood at the last election on a solemn promise that we would improve people’s lives, and although the pandemic has meant 2020 is not the year we all hoped it would be, our ambitions for the country remain unchanged.”