Under pressure Johnson to launch UK post-virus spending drive

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson will this week pledge to spend billions on infrastructure to revive the British economy in the face of the coronavirus crisis, media reports and ministers said Sunday.

In an interview with the Mail on Sunday newspaper, Johnson said there would be no return to controversial austerity policies practised by his Conservative Party over the past decade.

“This has been a huge, huge shock to the country but we’re going to bounce back very well,” he said. “We want to build our way back to health.”

Johnson is expected to outline plans in a speech on Tuesday, already dubbed “Project Speed”, with a pledge to build new roads, schools and hospitals to revive the flailing British economy.

“If Covid was a lightning flash, we’re about to have the thunderclap of the economic consequences. We’re going to be ready,” he said.

“We are absolutely not going back to the austerity of 10 years ago.”

‘A road to recovery’

Chancellor (finance minister) Rishi Sunak is expected to make an economic statement next month on spending plans.

The British economy is under severe pressure due to the global pandemic.

The number of unemployed stands at almost three million, and is expected to rise further, and while the economy contracted by 20 in April as the country went into coronavirus lockdown.

The main opposition Labour Party said unemployment figures could pass those seen under former Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s — when they peaked at 3.3 million — unless businesses are helped out, according to a report in The Observer newspaper.

Interviewed on Sky News, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “We are building now very much a road to recovery, a roadmap focusing on infrastructure… focused on roads, broadband, the type of things that effectively help to create jobs but also provides services, and growth.”

The Justice Department announced on Sunday plans to build four new prisons over the next six years.

Johnson’s administration is under huge pressure following criticism of its handling of the coronavirus crisis in the UK — and how it plans to help economic recovery.

Britain has been one of the countries most hit by the pandemic, recording some 43,000 deaths, the worst toll in Europe, and Johnson himself was hospitalised with the virus.

The country is also in the process of negotiating its Brexit deal with the European Union before the end of the year, amid fears that the UK may finally separate from Brussels with no deal.

The next major economic step for the British economy takes place on July 4 when England will reopen pubs, restaurants, hairdressers, museums and cinemas, all of which have been closed since the end of March.

Support for Johnson has collapsed in recent weeks.

A poll in The Observer showed that new Labour leader Keir Starmer has overtaken Johnson as the preferred prime minister.

Starmer received 37 percent backing, and Johnson 35 percent, despite him securing a comprehensive election victory just six months ago.

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