It’s time for Boris Johnson to get serious about saving jobs and our planet
Boris Johnson's new deal announcement "wasn’t new and it wasn’t much of a deal", Wes Streeting says
The planet is burning, and we are facing a sustained period of unemployment. But the Prime Minister's speech, billed as a ‘new deal’, failed to offer any hope of him delivering the real change that our country needs.
If there’s one thing we know about Boris Johnson, it’s that he overpromises and under delivers, and so it was with his big speech this week. It was billed as a speech to herald a ‘new deal’ for Britain but, as Labour leader Keir Starmer said: it wasn’t new and it wasn’t much of a deal.
It fell short of the new deal that our country needs to tackle the unfolding unemployment crisis, the scale of which was underlined by the 12,000 job losses announced in the hours and days that followed the Prime Minister’s speech from a range of employers including Airbus, Easyjet, Upper Crust owner SSP Group, Accenture and Harrods.
That’s why Labour’s Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds has called on the Chancellor to come forward next week with a back-to-work budget focused on jobs, jobs, jobs. We know that the UK is suffering the worst economic hit of all the industrialised nations. Unemployment is already at its highest level in a generation and without firm government action, the Government risks allowing structural unemployment to become a feature of life in a way that our country hasn’t seen for decades.
As the awful events in Leicester have shown, the coronavirus has not gone away. The risk of further local lockdowns, or even a second peak, hangs in the air. Even if, as we hope, we have seen the back of the worst of this virus, the long-tail economic effects will be felt disproportionately across different sectors of our economy. We supported the Chancellor’s unprecedented package of measures at the start of the lockdown in a spirit of constructive opposition. He now needs to come forward with a new package that supports sectors that will be feeling the impact of the pandemic hardest and longest.
One of the most depressing aspects of the Prime Minister’s speech was that a speech billed as a ‘new deal’ failed to offer any real hope of him delivering the Green New Deal that our country needs. We’ve seen what a response to a national emergency looks like during this crisis: big policy responses agreed rapidly with cross-party support; every government department tasked with playing its part in the crisis response; and the state, the private sector and civil society pulling together in an attempt to avert needless loss of life. So why haven’t we seen the same approach to the climate emergency declared by our Parliament little more than a year ago?
The planet is burning. Prolonged summer heatwaves are crippling infrastructure and causing public health crises. Last year, the Met Office declared the UK’s hottest day on record. The World Meteorological Organisation is seeking to verify reports of a new record temperature in the Arctic circle. Across the world, some of the poorest communities are already experiencing the devastation caused by man-made climate change
The impact of climate change is already clear. The consequences of our failure to act for future generations are already known, and the best we got from the Prime Minister was a commitment to planting more trees. Assuming he delivers them, which remains to be seen given his track record on the garden bridge and Boris Island Airport, they risk standing as a symbol of his complacency.
If the Prime Minister is a master of the overstatement, let us hope that the Chancellor is a master of the understatement. Instead of the back-to-work budget we need, we’re promised an ‘economic update’ next week. If the Government is serious about saving jobs, building back better and building back greener, it needs to be more than that.