A few years ago, a producer for a popular TV news network called me for an opinion on a story with the reasoning that – said in jest, I think – I ‘always seem happy to harp on about the north being hard done by’. It was a jovial dig in the arm that landed a little harder than intended.
She wasn’t wrong, though, was she? Defending my people against the plight of the north-south divide is indeed my favourite pastime. So you can imagine my joy at heading into another weekend of shows with that very subject firmly at the top of the agenda.
I text her yesterday, to see if her news show wanted my view on Greater Manchester resisting the Tier 3 regulations, but she had already booked Andy Burnham himself. My crown, it seems, had slipped. But I could rest easy in the knowledge that Andy’s firm stance was the right one. It can’t be OK that the medicine of these measures – unproven, unlikely to work and widely discredited by the government’s own scientific advice – are shot into the arm of the north to see what happens. Not least when the support isn’t there for those that would be hardest hit. The Mayor of Greater Manchester described it as treating the region like a canary in a coal mine – only they know the mine is full of toxic gas. With that, he had the support of health professionals, northern Tory MPs and the public alike.
With a swell of resistance firmly established – it leaves us a much more interesting question for the show this weekend. What does this do to the Tories relationship with the north?
In the run up to the 2019 election, the Tories built a bridge to the traditionally Labour backing voters in the north of England. They harnessed the anti-EU, anti-Westminster sentiment and used it to dive themselves to a thumping majority, toppling the ‘Red Wall’ in the process.
The bridge, of course, was built with plywood. It was a fragile coalition of voters who merely lent their support to the Tories – many for the first time. They knew they needed to build on it and have tried, with HS2 and much talk of levelling up. Now, not even a year on, much of that work has been undone by a virus handling that has hit the north particularly hard. Far from cementing trust, they have eroded it, and risk building up a resentment not seen since Thatcher.
More interestingly, they built this new relationship with the north on a shared distaste for the EU and an anti-Westminster sentiment that they so successfully harnessed and pushed during the Brexit period. Now we find those same sales men, sitting in Westminster, issuing diktats to the north of England.
So – have the Tories burnt down that bridge completely? And do they risk being eaten by the monster they created?
That is the question we’ll ask this weekend – and we’ll ask if there is anything to be salvaged from the wreckage of this week.
Also, as we consider the handling of the so-called second wave, we will hear from those still battling with the first.
Amy Durant was never diagnosed with COVID-19. A shortage of tests meant she had to battle the illness blind. While it is true that most recover – or feel no symptoms at all – for Amy, the virus has never gone away. Days are spent battling sharp stabbing pains and crippling fatigue. She can’t concentrate enough to work and can barely stand long enough to shower.
The absence of leadership – globally – has allowed conspiracy and cynicism to flourish. It is no surprise that people have begun to draw their own conclusions and many point to the lower numbers of deaths as an argument for a more relaxed approach. Amy’s story is a hard reality of this virus that we often overlook. She isn’t counted in the statistics, she isn’t even registered as a case, but life as she knows it has changed. She lives every day of her life with the consequences.
We’ll hear her cautionary tale on the show this weekend, as medical teams grapple with how to treat ‘long Covid’.
And we’ll head back on to the Road to the White House. With just over two weeks to polling day, both Trump and Biden took a cautious approach to a Town Hall debate this week. With Biden still ahead by most metrics, he seems keen to avoid a Banana skin. Team Biden seem happy to conclude that America has already decided and happy to wind down their campaign quietly. I’m reminded of a piece of advice former President Bill Clinton gave to former Prime Minister Tony Blair, as he went into the 2001 general election 20 points ahead – ‘campaign like you are twenty points behind’. It was advice Theresa May famously didn’t take in 2017 – and we all know how that ended.
See you in the morning.
Weekend Early Breakfast – with Darryl Morris – Sat/Sun – 5am-7amOctober 23, 2020 | No Comments