BORIS JOHNSON is to announce a ‘new deal’ for Britain in a speech evoking the spirit of Franklin D. Roosevelt — the US president who saved his nation from the Great Depression.
The prime minister is expected to detail his plans for a £5billion spending spree aimed at rescuing the UK economy from the ravages of coronavirus during a visit to the west Midlands today.
It comes almost 90 years after Democratic candidate ‘FDR’ delivered a rousing speech in which he declared: ‘I pledge myself to a new deal for the American people. This is more than a political campaign — it is a call to arms.’
Roosevelt was elected president in 1932 and went on to spend the modern equivalent of £530billion on building projects such as the Hoover Dam, establishing welfare benefits, improving workers’ rights and reforming the banking system.
Today, as he unveils his own grand plans in Dudley, Mr Johnson is due to say: ‘It sounds positively Rooseveltian. It sounds like a “new deal”. All I can say is that if so, then that is how it is meant to sound and to be, because that is what the times demand.’
Yesterday, the UK Covid-19 death toll rose by 25 to 43,575 — although the true figure is thought to be much higher.
Britain is also facing its worst economic crisis in modern times. The number of people claiming work-related benefits, including the unemployed, has risen by 126 per cent to 2.8million, while more than 600,000 jobs are thought to have been lost between March and May.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has forecast that the UK is likely to suffer more than any other developed nation, with the economy expected to slump by 11.5 per cent this year.
In today’s speech, Mr Johnson is expected to say that the government is determined to ‘put its arms around people at a time of crisis’.
He will add: ‘This is a government wholly committed not just to defeating coronavirus but to using this crisis finally to tackle this country’s great unresolved challenges of the last three decades.
‘To build the homes, to fix the NHS, to tackle the skills crisis, to mend the indefensible gap in opportunity and productivity and connectivity between the regions of the UK. To unite and level up.
‘To that end we will build build build. Build back better, build back greener, build back faster and to do that at the pace that this moment requires.’
Included in the PM’s spending plans is £1.5billion towards hospital maintenance, £1billion for school rebuilding and £900million for a string of ‘local projects’ across England.
Yesterday, he visited Ealing Fields High School, in west London, where a new teaching block is under construction.
Mr Johnson is also due to announce that a National Infrastructure Review will be published in the autumn, detailing plans for projects relating to ‘energy networks, road and rail, flood defences and waste’.
Meanwhile Sir Keir Starmer has called for a special Budget next month to deal with the threat of millions more people unemployed because of the pandemic.
The Labour leader told BBC Radio 4’s Today: ‘It’s staggering that, in light of the economic crisis that is about to descend upon us, that we are not having a July budget that puts jobs at the centre of economic recovery.’
Sir Keir, 57, also suggested challenging the prime minister to ‘a first to 50’ press-up competition after Mr Johnson was pictured undertaking one on his office floor. Mr Johnson, 56, had claimed he was as ‘fit as a butcher’s dog’ as he tried to dispel rumours about his health following his bout of coronavirus.
Asked if he could do more than one press-up, Sir Keir told ITV’s Good Morning Britain he might challenge the PM when they meet in the Commons tomorrow.
‘I was thinking that, at this week’s prime minister’s questions, the first question should be, you know, first to 50,’ he said.
Roosevelt… the president who saved America
FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT is remembered as one of America’s greatest presidents.
He hauled the nation out of the Great Depression with his ambitious ‘New Deal’ programme of investment, banking reforms and poverty relief between 1933 and 1939 — and led America until his death just weeks before the end of World War II.
Among the grand projects FDR oversaw was the building of the Boulder Dam (later renamed Hoover) on the Nevada border. During World War II, he formed a ‘Big Three’ alliance with Winston Churchill and the Soviet Union’s Joseph Stalin.
His 12 years in office saw the National Labor Relations Act, expansion of the US Supreme Court and the end of Prohibition.
At his inauguration, he famously said ‘the only thing we have to fear is… fear itself’.