Michael Gove has escalated the government’s war of words with Andy Burnham by accusing the Greater Manchester mayor of risking lives by opting for “press conferences and posturing” rather than agreeing to new coronavirus rules.
In comments set to inflame tensions yet more between ministers and local leaders and MPs, Gove dismissed concerns about the level of economic support offered for Greater Manchester to be moved into the top level of restrictions.
Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, rejected the Labour idea of a so-called circuit breaker temporary national lockdown to reduce Covid infection rates, saying the latest wave of the virus was being spread unevenly around the country.
While he did not mention Burnham by name, Gove was explicit in blaming “the political leadership in Greater Manchester” for an impasse over whether the region should enter tier 3, saying people would die as a result of the delays.
“I want them to put aside for a moment some of the political positioning that they’ve indulged in, and I want them to work with us in order to ensure that we save lives and protect the NHS,” Gove told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday show.
“An absence of action will mean more people get infected. That will place more pressure on the NHS. And the more people, sadly, in intensive care beds in the north-west and in Manchester, who are suffering from coronavirus, the fewer intensive care beds are there for people with other serious conditions.”
He added: “Instead of press conferences and posturing, what we need is action to save people’s lives.”