UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has declared that the country’s economy is facing “bumpy times” ahead as he set out his desire for a “Rooseveltian approach” to rebuilding the economy after the pandemic.
In an interview, the prime minister noted that the coronavirus outbreak had been “a disaster” for the UK and an economic effort similar to US president Franklin D Roosevelt’s “New Deal” was needed to lift the UK out of the doldrums.
Boris Johnson, however, noted that it would be wrong to return to “what people called austerity” and made it clear that he wants to boost infrastructure spending to avert a devastating hit to the economy.
Just before the Prime Minister’s major speech in Dudley on Tuesday, he told ‘Times Radio’: “This has been a disaster, let’s not mince our words, this has been an absolute nightmare for the country.
“The country has gone through a profound shock. But in those moments you have the opportunity to change and to do things better. We really want to build back better, to do things differently, to invest in infrastructure, transport, broadband – you name it.”
Mr Johnson said the chancellor would set out the plans in the autumn but he made it clear that infrastructure spending would form a major part of the government’s plans.
“But in the end what you can’t do at this moment is go back to what people called austerity, it wasn’t actually austerity but people called it austerity, and I think that would be a mistake. I think this is the moment for a Rooseveltian approach to the UK,” he said.
The prime minister Boris Johnson acknowledged that there will be “some bumpy times” while also noting that “the UK will get through the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic very, very well indeed”.
“So what we’re going to be doing in the next few months is really doubling down on our initial agenda which was all about investment, if you remember, in infrastructure, in education, in technology, to bring the country together,” Boris Johnson said.
Mr Johnson’s remarks follow a speech on Tuesday, where the prime minister will seek to shift the focus from the crisis onto the recovery with 10-year schools rebuilding programme – with £1bn for the first 50 projects.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer remarked that the record of Conservative-led governments over a decade has been “talk, talk, talk rather than build, build, build”.
Boris Johnson noted at a shift towards taking a more interventionist stance on obesity after his stint in intensive care battling coronavirus, where he said, “I was very lucky, I had wonderful care and I think probably the best thing I can say is it gave me an even deeper love and admiration for the NHS and everything they can do.”
Addressing a question on how it changed him, he said: “Well I did lose some weight, it’s perfectly true,” while stating that he had previously taken a libertarian stance on obesity – branding a levy on sugar as a “sin tax” – but he was now concerned by the pressure on the NHS from associated problems with being overweight.
“We certainly must have a care for the health of our population and we will be happier and fitter and more resistant to diseases like COVID if we can tackle obesity.
“When I came out of hospital I did notice there were occasional pieces in the papers saying that, you know, I was a bit of a wraith-like or something – complete nonsense, I want you to know. I am feeling very well,” he said.