Shropshire Star comment: Huge changes to come

Until we defeat this thing, we have to find a way through this.

Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak

And how we emerge the other side will shape the lives of Britons, including a generation of young Britons, for many years to come. For the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, the radical and the unprecedented have become routine parts of his job.

As soon as Boris Johnson made clear the other day that the nation faces a further six months of agony it was also clear that there was more for the Chancellor to do. In Sunak’s statement to the House of Commons he said that we were fundamentally in a better position now than we were when the storm broke in March. In our understanding of the coronavirus, and our preparedness in tackling it, that is true, and the lifting of March’s lockdown is also letting the economy breathe again.

But from the perspective of many people things are now actually far worse. Jobs which still existed at the time of the lockdown in March have been blown away in huge numbers in the months since. And those still in work on paper and supported by the furlough scheme can see the writing on the wall as that scheme is wound down. The Chancellor has always made it plain that he cannot save every job nor save every business. There had been some calls for him to extended the furlough scheme, but the reality of the hard situation is that that would mean paying the wages for jobs which no longer existed.

His new job support scheme introduces the concept of supporting “viable jobs.” It has been broadly welcomed as a way of saving jobs over the winter, after which we have to hope things are improving economically and that we are much closer to developing a vaccine, because the prospect that things are no better months from now does not bear thinking about.

This is all going to be hugely expensive to the public purse, but when the alternative is mass unemployment and a devastated economy from which the UK takes years to recover, there really is no choice. It is a national investment for which we will just have to find the money to pay when that time inevitably comes.

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