Gary Neville has pointed out that former Health Secretary Matt Hancock told footballers to take pay cuts and ‘play their part’ during the Covid pandemic as the time he was inspired to get involved in Labor politics .
The former England footballer said the Conservative politician’s remarks ‘made me speak politically’ as he appeared at the Labor Conference in Liverpool to call for a change of government.
He attacked Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s decision to cut the top 45p tax rate and corporation tax rates, even though Neville benefited directly from both, saying football friends were among those who wanted to ‘give back’ money” to those who needed it this winter.
In an interview with the Guardian he said: ‘There wasn’t a single rich person on over £150,000 a year, I believe, last week who asked for more money in their pocket, wanted more money in his pocket or waiting for money in his pocket.
“They expected the government, in this budget, to put in place emergency measures to help people pay their energy bills during the winter, to feed themselves [for] Their families. It’s almost blatant that they’re only helping their own.
“I’m enjoying it and 658,000 other people are enjoying it, but if you have any dignity or honor in you, I think you’ll step aside – I know I would – and say, ‘No, not this times Kwasi.’ You make sure the money goes to people who are struggling to pay their energy bills this winter.
The football pundit and businessman, when asked about his wealthy friends who also benefited from the changes, said: “They have good hearts. They were raised in working-class communities and, although they are wealthy, they do not forget their roots. They pass on their money to their families, to their friends, they want to reinvest in their communities, they do something for charity.
He added: “So footballers, when they were attacked by Matt Hancock at the start of the pandemic, which gave me life and made me speak politically, you know… footballers are not the people we should attack here.
“We all watch the Downing Street briefing at five o’clock every night and this guy comes along and I think, ‘Come on a minute, give me a break.’
Despite his newfound political activism, Neville also ruled out becoming an MP, saying: “I wouldn’t because I love what I do in Greater Manchester with my businesses, and I love what I do in football. I sincerely believe that I can be more vocal and more honest outside.
He has also ruled out running to succeed Andy Burnham as mayor of Greater Manchester as it would mean abandoning his business interests and watching football at the weekends.
He said there were other high-profile figures in the world of football who would support Labor but suggested they might be put off by possible abuse.
“Yes, but the number of times I’ve been called a champagne socialist or an enlightened left-hander. I’m not a leftist, I want companies to make profits so they can reinvest them in their facilities, people and products. I am not a socialist. I want there to be a thriving economy, but I also want us to have fantastic public services.
Neville said he was “disappointed” with the state of the country and that it was “time for a change”. He added: “It is quite obvious that this is a tired and failing government of 12 years. If a manager stays too long at a football club, if a political party stays too long, then you need this change.
He said the Conservatives had come to rely on crises to avoid talking about public services. “They like the idea of going from crisis to crisis because it gives them air cover for their incompetence,” he said.