When the Liverpool City Region was the first area to be included in the government’s new Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions, people here – not for the first time – had the feeling of being singled out.
The people of Liverpool are not known to shy away from Tory governments, but that was the accusation made last week to local leaders in this part of the country.
Political editor Liam Thorp looks back on a turbulent week with backroom fighting and very public criticism
Timing is everything in politics – and the fact that the leaders of this region were the first to enter into talks with the government about new measures is an important aspect of this story.
So there was a consensus among our leaders that something had to be done – but they insisted that a serious financial package with forced closures of businesses had to come.
The truth is that the Covid 19 situation in our region was – and still is – extremely serious, with the NHS Medical Director last night stating that he expects virus admissions in the Liverpool Main Hospital Trust to soon reach the same level as at the height of the devastating first wave.
And they had no idea that shortly after M62 a rebellion would break out, with Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham leading a very public battle against what he believes is an unfair deal for his region.
At that time there was no legislation in place and the government had not yet publicly confirmed the details of its new tier system, so much was unknown in these discussions.
The leaders certainly did not know that shortly after Boris Johnson’s announcement of the region’s new measures – complete with about five coordinated name checks by Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram – the government’s own scientists would cast doubt on their effectiveness by publishing their demand for a complete shutdown of the circuit breakers.
Steve Rotheram certainly has a different style than his close friend, and some have criticized an alleged lack of passion or struggle in Metro’s mayor.
But as one local official said, “there is more than one way to skin a cat”, and while Mr Burnham and the government clashed in public, the leaders of the Liverpool City Region worked in the background to ensure better financial dealings for the businesses and workers affected by the new restrictions here.
But as I learned from a source present at the meetings, former Congressman Walton was not lacking in determination when it came to ensuring that a decent cash offer was received from the government.
At some point he pushed back the government’s negotiator so furiously that the other leaders spontaneously applauded.
At times they described the mayor of the Metro as “lively and angry” and said he refused to leave the meeting without an agreement.
I was told that the government’s proposals were rejected several times by the delegation of the city region.
In the end, the local leaders managed to reach a better agreement than the one originally offered, with a total package of 50 million pounds in addition to the 40 million pounds they found on the ground to help those affected.
Of course this is the Conservative Party we are talking about. They don’t have a great track record in funding local government and it remains to be seen whether they stick to these agreements.
But the fight was not over there.
They also secured assurances that they would be on an equal footing with any other region subject to the same restrictions and an agreement that no council in the region would be allowed to go bankrupt if they tried to balance their budgets next year.