Matt Hancock: Political leaders in Liverpool were 'easier to deal with' than Manchester

Matt Hancock on how Liverpool and Manchester worked with him during the pandemic.

The former health secretary has told the UK Covid-19 Inquiry that he found political leaders in Liverpool "easier to deal with" than those in Manchester.

Matt Hancock is giving evidence before the inquiry in London and has praised the former Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson for his "spirit of collaboration".

But he also faced some backlash from the public after mistakenly suggesting Mr Anderson had passed away, saying: "unfortunately, no longer with us - he was incredibly supportive".

People were quick to correct him online that Mr Anderson is in fact still alive.

Mr Anderson left his post in 2020, stepping down from the mayoral position after being arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit bribery and witness intimidation.

He was also suspended from the Labour Party.

Mr Hancock continued: “We ended up in Liverpool having a package of measures that was effective after a very constructive negotiation.”

He added that other regional politicians were “not constructive” and in some cases he thought they gave "actively unhelpful input that I felt put politics ahead of public health."

Asked about a reference in Sir Patrick Vallance’s diary regarding difficult negotiations with Manchester, Mr Hancock said: “Yes, I would say the diary entry might be better written as political leadership in Liverpool and political leadership in Manchester – I have got no beef with the fine City of Manchester.”

North West mayors Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram appeared before the inquiry last week and submitted evidence there was a lack of communication with local leaders about the tier system and restrictions.

Responding to the apparent criticism, a spokesperson for Mr Burnham, who has served as Mayor of Greater Manchester since 2017, said: “That may be Mr Hancock’s opinion, but he’s wrong.

“The mayor and 10 leaders in Greater Manchester, including a Conservative leader, spent many hours trying to negotiate a deal with the Government and the chief of staff at 10 Downing Street.

“It would not have been right to place further restrictions on the residents of Greater Manchester without the financial package to support them.”

In response to Mr Hancock’s comment about Mr Anderson being “no longer with us”, the Mayor of Liverpool from 2012 to 2021 posted on social media: “Just took my pulse and I seem to still be here and I feel ok.”

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To know...