ER Editor: See this from John Connolly of The Spectator, titled Introducing the Northern Research Group: the trade union for Tory MPs. Of note:
Boris Johnson has not had the easiest of relationships with the north lately. While the Prime Minister started his premiership promising to ‘level up’ northern regions, during the pandemic he’s ended up spending more time clamping them down, as Covid restrictions have been introduced across swathes of the north, and he’s clashed with local MPs and regional mayors.
So you’d imagine he was not exactly enthused when it was announced last week that a new group of Tory MPs were banding together to form a ‘Northern Research Group’ (NRG) to make sure the ‘levelling up’ agenda was not forgotten. …
The new northern group was founded by Jake Berry, the MP for Rossendale and Darwen, a Northern Powerhouse minister for three years, and in some ways a surprising candidate to lead a pressure group against the government – he’s a close friend and ally of Boris Johnson. When I meet Berry in his parliamentary office this week, he insists the Prime Minister was on board – at least in the beginning. …
With several Tory MPs in the North West breaking ranks to criticise the government this week over its attempts to move Greater Manchester and Lancashire into Tier 3 of the Covid restrictions, the group has the potential to cause a spot of bother to Johnson. It has at least 35 Tory MPs signed up (its exact membership and size will remain secret as some members are in government) and has been meeting for several weeks over Zoom. …
If the group is not united by a certain set of policies, it might be fair to ask: does it need to exist? Berry is adamant though that there is something that sets northern Tories apart from their southern colleagues. Northern Tories have ‘always been slightly different’ he tells me. ‘Better, I would say… Number one: we are the party of towns. We’re not the party of the cities and we’re not party of London.’ …
The northern Tories may also end up forging some unusual allies. Berry tells me the group has already been approached by the Trade Union Council (TUC) about working on projects with them. And although the relationship is only ‘one email old’, the group has no ideological qualms about working with unions traditionally associated with Labour. ‘Northern Conservatives probably have a slightly different view than maybe other members of parliament from other parts of the country about the positivity that the trade union movement can bring to big northern industry.’ And if that ruffles feathers in the Tory party? ‘Boohoo’.
MPs in the Northern Research Group also come from north Wales and the Scottish border region. See this by The Guardian, Who are the Northern Research Group that pose a ‘threat’ to Johnson? See also this by Conservative MP David Davis for the Daily Mail titled We made promises to voters in the North… we MUST keep them, writes former Brexit Secretary DAVID DAVIS.
50 Northern Tory MPs Demand Roadmap Out of Lockdown
Fifty Northern MPs have demanded a roadmap out of lockdown as a further million people have been told they’ll be placed under the most severe restrictions from Thursday, Oct 29, with the addition of Nottingham, Broxtowe and Warrington to Tier 3. The Mail has more.
A letter to Boris Johnson from the Northern Research Group – a newly-launched alliance of Tory MPs led by ex-Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry – outlines the group’s demands, which include a tailored economic recovery plan for the north.
Mr Berry says that the virus could widen the North-South divide and “send the North into reverse”. His group is now calling for Mr Johnson to “level-up the North”, something the PM claimed he would do following sweeping Conservative gains in the region in the General Election.
It comes as around eight million people in England face living under the toughest COVID-19 restrictions by the end of the week after officials confirmed four separate parts of Nottinghamshire will be thrust into a Tier 3 lockdown from midnight on Wednesday, following three days of crunch talks with the Government.
Officials have agreed to adopt the draconian measures in Nottingham City, Gedling, Broxtowe and Rushcliffe in an attempt to drive down transmission. It will mean all pubs and bars have to close unless they serve meals (ER: logic?), while people are banned from mixing with anyone they don’t live with indoors or in private gardens and beer gardens.
MPs from the Northern Research Group describe how the region has been hit with harsh local restrictions and local economies will continue to suffer, with many losing their jobs and facing the prospect of closing down their businesses.
MP for Rossendale and Darwen, Mr Berry, said: “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.
“Our constituents have been some of the hardest hit by this virus with many losing jobs, businesses, and livelihoods. Never has there been a more pertinent and urgent political and economic case to support people living in the North.
“However, instead of moving forwards on our shared ambitions, the cost of Covid and the virus itself threatens to send the North into reverse.”
Ironically, Nottingham has been placed in Tier 3 in spite of the fact that daily new cases are falling. Department of Health statistics show that the number of COVID-19 cases diagnosed in Nottingham each day has been dropping since the start of the month.
Over the weekend, South Yorkshire became the latest region to fall under the highest tier of controls, following Liverpool City Region, Greater Manchester and Lancashire. If you add the areas announced yesterday, a total of eight million people will be living in a Tier 3 area, which means no household mixing – indoors or out – pubs closing unless they serve food, and locals advised only to leave their areas for essential travel such as work, education or health, and they must return before the end of the day.
Stop Press: ITV reports that drive-by testing facilities across the UK’s hotspot areas are well below capacity, with very few people showing up for tests.
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