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How will we recover from the coronavirus crisis if we can’t trust Boris Johnson to do the right thing?

the Prime Minister’s approval ratings have fallen 20 points to -1% in the past few days

4 min read

Public confidence is plummeting. We need a clear and coherent strategy to lift the lockdown and get our workers, businesses and consumers on the road to recovery

Trust in government is crucial if we expect citizens and businesses to respond to public policies that aim to lift us out of the lockdown and put us on the road to recovery. 
If we don’t trust the Government to do the right thing, we won’t have the confidence to return to work, school or the high street.
Trust and confidence matters. It matters because it saves lives in the middle of a public health emergency. It matters because we all have to work together as we lift the restrictions and try to get back to normal.
A lack of trust and confidence in the Government costs jobs, profits and growth – causing deep economic scarring beyond the public health crisis that need not have been the case. 
From the endless prevarication in February and the short-sighted errors on testing and tracing in March to, as the Sunday Times reported it, the ’22 days of dither and delay’ in bringing forward the lockdown restrictions that may have caused 1.5m citizens to get infected when they might not have done so, the public has quickly lost confidence in the Government. We entered the lockdown late and now we’re being asked to lift it without a clear plan in place.   
That’s why, according to the University College London study Virus Watch, there has been a fall in compliance with the lockdown restrictions in recent weeks. It’s why, according to YouGov, 88% of people think now is the wrong time to lift the restrictions and why many feel uncomfortable going back to reopened stores even if the Government tells them they can. And it’s why the Prime Minister’s approval ratings have crashed 20 points to -1% in the past five days.  

I want to see a return of confidence so that we can lift the country back up, across every nation and region

The public needs confidence in the Prime Minister, not only in his Government’ handling of the pandemic, but also in his plans to handle the recovery.
The Government must now turn a corner. It must step forward with a clear and coherent strategy to lift the lockdown and get our workers, businesses and consumers safely on the road to recovery.
My committee has already heard evidence that businesses are concerned about getting access to the kit they need to make their workplaces COVID19 secure, and that unions are concerned about workplace health and safety disputes getting resolved quickly. 
We’ve also heard about the need for the Government to be clear about future support: helping the hardest hit sectors, and the industries left closed, for longer; ensuring a progressive tapering of furlough, for those businesses that are able to pick up the wage bill once again; continuing to support self-employed workers; providing sectoral packages of investment and policy support co-created with businesses, unions, devolved administrations and local government leaders that will actually stimulate economic growth; and a clear commitment that ministers will invest in people as well as infrastructure, with a net zero sustainable transition baked in. 
So far, we’ve heard very little about the Government’s approach to recovering the economy and supporting those workers and businesses who need it — and we’ve heard even less about how it will secure a net zero transition. 
My committee will be doing all it can to engage with businesses, workers and consumers to understand what they need from government to get this right. We’ll be pulling together the best available evidence to set out a path to recovery that’s anchored in sustainable economic growth, wage growth, wealth creation and opportunities for those being left behind. And, as you’d expect, we’ll be holding the Government to account for its actions. 
A lack in confidence costs jobs, profits and growth. That’s why competent political leadership matters. I want to see a return of confidence so that we can lift the country back up, across every nation and region, together. We all have a role to play in this national effort, and we need to see it coming from the top. 

Darren Jones is the Labour MP for Bristol North West and the Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee

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