Pressure piles on PM as 55 northern Tory MPs demand ‘roadmap out of lockdown’

Downing Street Westminster

A coalition of 55 Conservative MPs representing northern constituencies have written to the prime minister demanding a “road map out of lockdown” and a post-Covid economic plan for the north of England.

The Northern Research Group (NRG) of Tory MPs delivered their letter to Boris Johnson, expressing fears the coronavirus could send their region “into reverse” and widen the North-South divide.

Johnson – who has spent another day under-fire for his position on school meals – has been told to keep his promise to “level-up the North” in what the Guardian describes as “a provocative letter” from the NRG.

MPs fear North could pay for the cost of Covid

The group – set up earlier this month “on the same basis as the European Research Group” and led by former Northern Powerhouse minister (and Johnson ally) Jake Berry – fears “the cost of Covid could be paid for by the downgrading of the levelling-up agenda” leaving their constituencies behind.

“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 levelling-up agenda we have been elected to deliver, has never been more essential,” the MPs wrote in the letter published today.

It was also confirmed earlier that a further 900,000 people will move into tier 3 restrictions after a surge in infections in Nottingham and Warrington.

The NRG’s letter echoed comments made by Berry on Sky’s Sophie Ridge programme yesterday which provoked a furious response on the MP’s Twitter account with replies questioning the idea of “levelling-up” matching voting against feeding children.

“He’s my MP and I’m quite frankly absolutely disgusted and saddened by the way he and other MPs for our local areas have voted. How can you vote against feeding children?” tweeted Beryl Mulcahy.

Labour have repeated their intention to force a second vote on the issue and dismissed the prime minister’s claim that councils could fund the cost of providing the meals.

Petition to end MP’s meal subsidies near 1 million

The Independent reports that the £63 million fund for school meals, repeatedly referred to government ministers and Johnson “has already run out” and cites official government guidance on August 4 that anticipated “most of the funding will be spent within 12 weeks”.

Meanwhile a petition calling for an end to taxpayer subsidies for MPs’ meals in the Palace of Westminster is approaching one million signatures.

It has been organised by Portia Lawrie who was angered by MPs rejecting Marcus Rashford’s call to provide free school meals during school holidays.

“I wanted to point out the clear hypocrisy between that and the food and drink the public subsidise for MP’s whilst denying support to those most in need of it,” said Lawrie.

At 11pm tonight (Monday) the number of signatures was 937,926.

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