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Boris Johnson: This is the moment to be ambitious


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Boris Johnson: This is the moment to be ambitious

Media playback is unsupported on your device Media captionBoris Johnson says Britain must “build, build, build” to bounce back from the coronavirus crisisBoris Johnson has said now is the time to be “ambitious” about the UK’s future, as he set out a post-coronavirus recovery plan.The PM vowed to “use this moment” to fix longstanding economic…

Boris Johnson: This is the moment to be ambitious

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Media captionBoris Johnson says Britain must “build, build, build” to bounce back from the coronavirus crisis

Boris Johnson has said now is the time to be “ambitious” about the UK’s future, as he set out a post-coronavirus recovery plan.

The PM vowed to “use this moment” to fix longstanding economic problems and promised a £5bn “new deal” to build homes and infrastructure.

Plans set out in the Tory election manifesto would be speeded up and “intensified,” he said in a speech.

Labour and the CBI said he was not focusing enough on saving jobs.

It came as new figures showed the UK economy shrank faster than at any time since 1979 between January and March.

Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer said: The prime minister promised a new deal, but there’s not much that’s new, and it’s not much of a deal.

“We’re facing an economic crisis, the biggest we’ve seen in a generation and the recovery needs to match that. What’s been announced amounts to less than £100 per person.

“And it’s the re-announcement of many manifesto pledges and commitments, so it’s not enough.”

He added: “We’re not going to argue against a recovery plan, but the focus has to be on jobs.”

In his speech, in Dudley, Mr Johnson vowed to “build build build” to soften the economic impact of coronavirus.

‘Economic aftershock’

In a wide-ranging speech, he said the UK “cannot continue to be prisoners of this crisis” and the government is “preparing now, slowly, cautiously to come out of hibernation”.

“This country needs to be ready for what may be coming,” he said, saying there will be an “economic aftershock”.

“We must use this moment now… to plan our response and to fix the problems that were most brutally illuminated in that covid lightning flash.”

He said the government wanted to continue with its plans to “level up” as “too many parts” of the country had been “left behind, neglected, unloved”.

Infrastructure projects in England will be “accelerated” and there would be investment in new academy schools, green buses and new broadband, said the PM.

The prime minister loves a big, historical comparison.

He is a keen student of Winston Churchill – and has even written a book about him.

Over the last few days, the comparisons the government has sought to draw have been with former American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his “New Deal.”

As my colleagues at Reality Check point out, the plan set out today is a tiddler compared to what FDR did, and a fair chunk of it is re-announcing what we already knew the government was planning.

But Boris Johnson is attempting to set out in a broader context the government’s vision – and his pride in saying he wants to spend a lot to revitalise the economy and haul it out of the doldrums.

Under what he dubbed “project speed,” planning laws would be streamlined to encourage building.

From September, vacant shops will be allowed to be converted into homes without a planning application, as part of the proposals.

And homeowners will be able to build extensions “via a fast track approval process” subject to consultation with their neighbours.

He said the government will not be returning to austerity and Chancellor Rishi Sunak will set out economic response plan next week.

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The CBI said the prime minister had set out the “first steps on the path to recovery” but called for a greater focus on saving jobs.

Director General Carolyn Fairbairn said: “The reality is that longer-term plans will falter without continued help for firms still in desperate difficulty.

“Government intervention so far has saved countless jobs, yet anxious months for many still lie ahead. The focus on rescuing viable firms cannot slip while the UK looks to recovery, or earlier efforts could be wasted.”

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