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Downing Street was like 'last days of Rome' during lockdown, Andy Burnham says

By Joseph Timan

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."

READ MORE: Andy Burnham calls for nationalisation of railways as he backs union campaign

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."

What do you think? Have your say in the comments

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.

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Dive Deeper:
Next Labour Party leader odds as Keir Starmer stakes future on Beergate gamble
Labour Party leader Keir Starmer has gambled his leadership on being cleared by Durham Police in an investigation of allegations…
Metro Mayor supports Starmer's 'honourable' resignation stance
Steve Rotheram had called for Boris Johnson to go over covid breaches
Andy Burnham sets 'red line' on Clean Air Zone talks as he denies 'climb down'
The scheme is under review with seven weeks left to agree a new plan
Labour heavyweight Wes Streeting denies plan to succeed Starmer
A fundraising event held for the shadow minister sparks rumours that he is readying himself to replace Keir Starmer if…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Partygate: PM accused of presiding over ‘record’ 100 Covid fines
Met police announce number of fixed-penalty notices for Covid breaches in Whitehall has doubled
PM and Cabinet Secretary not hit with latest partygate fines, No 10 says
The Metropolitan Police has made around a further 50 fixed penalty notice referrals as part of its investigation into lockdown-breaking…
Get all your news in one place