Boris Johnson risks losing our trust and goodwill over jobs – Jayne Dowle

NO single world leader is winning any crowns for handling coronavirus.

Boris Johnson's handling of Covid-19 is being increasingly called into question.

Yet, when we look back on these months which changed the world, there will be victors who have led their countries to recovery. And those who have not.

We are enduring a global emergency like no other. We have been forced to reject our most basic natural responses – to engage openly with others, walk and socialise freely, hug our children and grandchildren – and retreat into our own homes for safety.

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The worst public health crisis in more than a century, most economic activity – freedom to travel safely and to go to work – has been curtailed. It’s enough to make anyone fearful.

Boris Johnson's response to Covid-19 is being called into question.

It is in this context that we must place our own Prime Minister. We should acknowledge that he has been asked to summon up superhuman powers.

He has been obliged to implement control measures previously unimaginable, basing fast-moving decisions on scientific information which has not been without fault itself.

And, of course, we must pay him the necessary respect for winning his own fight for life after being struck down with the virus.

However, it is time for Mr Johnson to stop blustering in his bunker and come out and start to look over the hill. He should seize the day – and not leave it many days longer – to do so.

Chanclelor Rishi Sunak was the architect of the Government's furlough scheme.

There is still goodwill towards him, 
but it is evaporating. After his broadcast on easing the lockdown, public approval of the Government’s handling of the
crisis fell by nine percentage points in a week. It now stands at minus three per cent, according to an Opinium poll published at the weekend. This is not good.

The announcement of the latest unemployment figures – UK jobless claims soared by 70 per cent in April – has yet to be taken into account.

The Office for National Statistics reports a rise of 856,000 to 2.1 million in April, the biggest monthly increase since modern records began in 1971. Yet this already alarming figure hides the eight million individuals furloughed by their employers, and many of the self-employed, plus the shopkeepers, business owners and entrepreneurs whose circumstances are precarious.

Whilst many employers are supplementing the Government’s furlough scheme and those who work for themselves are often proving agile and adaptable, town centres and business parks stand eerily still.

A government task force, engaging regional and local leaders, should be deployed forthwith to ensure that the recovery leaves no community behind.

Regional mayors, including the Sheffield City Region’s Dan Jarvis, are pushing for action, but must take a holding position because of the Government’s lack of clarity. Every day of delay causes more damage.

Mr Johnson must step up to the plate. He is not a cowardly man – he’s survived to the age of 55 with more than a few scrapes along the way. However, his refusal to acknowledge things which have gone wrong, and publicly engage with serious matters, the economy for starters, means that his government is stuck on a perilous impasse.

We have – literally – trusted our Prime Minister with our lives. For our part we have largely stood behind him. Now we must be able to trust him with our future.

We all know that mistakes have been made; the terrible death toll in care homes, the shortage of PPE equipment, the fiasco over testing, the debacle over schools.

Yet, rather than acknowledge this, we hear rebuttal after rebuttal. When challenged in the Commons last week by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, Mr Johnson instead insisted that the Government had acted swiftly to protect care homes. We all know it didn’t.

Why doesn’t he realise that every time he dodges a serious and well-placed contention, especially from the Leader of the Opposition, he knocks another piece off his own credibility?

There is no need for this. We accept he is far from perfect. And clearly, given the Conservatives’ game-changing performance in Northern constituencies at the General Election in December, voters are prepared to forgive any number of personal foibles.

However, he should be wary of taking the public for fools. A government that cannot admit mistakes is unlikely to learn from them. And this is worrying.

As his Chancellor, Richmond MP Rishi Sunak, warned earlier this week, we face the prospect of a recession that will leave “economic scarring” for at least a generation.

If we are to approach this scenario with any kind of workable plan, we need a contract of trust in place between ourselves and our government.

Just look what is happening with the invidious stand-off between Ministers and teaching unions. Now imagine that writ large. I rest my case.

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James Mitchinson