Sunderland’s Labour leader has slammed the Prime Minister for putting politics before people and believes lives have been lost because of the Government’s delay in imposing a national lockdown.

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said that Boris Johnson’s ‘dither and delay’ in moving to a blanket lockdown like that in March 2020 will have ‘cost many lives and will do untold damage to the economy’, and that the ‘PM’s track record of overpromising for political gain means that not only public health, but public confidence has been severely compromised’.

The councillor has been speaking out since case numbers began to sharply rise last year and has twice urged the Government to put in place tighter regional restrictions to help bring down the number of cases in the area.

His latest message comes as infection numbers in Sunderland have doubled compared with figures last week, a worrying trend that the leader has said he ‘does not expect to see slow overnight’.

He said: “For each and every day of indecision and watered-down measures, the situation we face has only become more and more perilous.  These critical measures are weeks too late.  Once again, dither and delay has allowed this situation to become out of control.  We already face an unprecedented national crisis with our healthcare service on the brink of being overwhelmed and we’re still a week or two away from understanding the true impact of households mixing over Christmas.

“Once again, Boris’ overpromise of giving families a Christmas together – that he could never have known was practicable or possible at the time he announced it – means that many lives will be lost.  We have a Prime Minister who is more concerned about politics and his popularity than people’s lives, and who ducks decisions until he is forced into U-turns instead of doing the right thing early.


“The Prime Minister must now put his public duty before all else – before politics – and take decisions that are vital to stave-off this virus.  Nothing else should matter.”

Councillor Miller believes that vital weeks have been lost, and that ‘going harder, earlier’ when it was clear the virus was once again growing, could have prevented this latest surge.

“Boris Johnson has given us the worst of all worlds.  Lockdowns come will huge sacrifice.  Nobody denies that.  But watered down lockdowns – closing hospitality businesses and non-essential retail, while keeping schools, where we know the virus is spreading, open – means these lockdowns will end up being more protracted and more damaging in the long run.”

Labour called for a ‘circuit-breaker’ in October, a plea that Cllr Miller claims was ignored ‘purely due to politics’.

Cllr Miller added: “The Prime Minister has resisted lockdown largely due to politics.  Only when absolutely forced into this, has he finally done what is necessary.

“It is time Mr Johnson accepted that he may need to take decisions that are unpopular or follow suggestions that the opposition has put forward, but that, ultimately, are the right ones to get us out of this perilous situation.  We have to stop this infection from surging through our communities and overwhelming an NHS that is already under the winter pressure that brings it to its knees every year.  And that means closing down all practical routes of transmission.

“It’s high time people were put before politics and popularity.  This is a national crisis and we all depend on this Government to do what’s right.”