Andy Burnham has said Downing Street was like the ‘last days of Rome’ during the pandemic as he responded to news of further Partygate fines live on the radio. The additional 50 fines for breaches of Covid rules follow more than 50 which were already handed out last month including to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The Labour mayor, who appeared on BBC Radio Manchester for his first phone-in since the local elections, gave his reaction to the news live on air. He said: “It’s out of control.
“To have 50 fines issued in Downing Street says to you that the place that’s running this country was like the last days of Rome, going to complete pot. This is really, really serious.”
The Greater Manchester mayor also spoke of his discussions with Downing Street in October 2020 when the city-region was forced into Tier 3 rules. Local leaders resisted the new Covid restrictions which would have forced many businesses to close with only two-thirds of their wages covered.
Mr Burnham led the discussions with Downing Street which dominated the news at the time as the government refused to increase its offer of support. Responding to the news of further Covid breaches in government buildings, he said Whitehall was living a ‘very different existence’ to Greater Manchester.
He said: “I couldn’t get any sense out of them and I just knew they were living a very different existence to what we were living at that moment in time. And this news now kind of confirms what I felt. The place wasn’t in the same pandemic as we were.”
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The mayor was also asked about Labour leader Keir Starmer’s pledge to stand down if he is fined for breaking Covid rules as part of the Beergate investigation. He said Sir Keir did the ‘right thing’, defending the former director of public prosecutions who has shown his ‘integrity’ with ‘high standards’ this week.
However, he refused to comment on the ongoing Durham police investigation. The Greater Manchester mayor was also asked – and encouraged by one caller – about whether he would resign and put himself forward to be Labour leader.
He said: “One day, if the opportunity opened up, I’m not saying I wouldn’t consider it. But genuinely, I’m enjoying this job.
“It’s challenging but we are making progress. I’m afraid you’ve got me for a full second term.”
Mr Burnham also said the Labour Party should be ‘less London-centric’ and suggested Angela Rayner and Lisa Nandy as potential future Northern leaders. But he said he supports Starmer and the ‘progress’ he has made in the party.