Socialist Worker

Tories push for lockdown end

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2709

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Sunak readying John Lewis to reopen (Pic: HM Treasury/Flickr)


The Tories were patting themselves on the back this week—despite the official coronavirus death toll in Britain climbing to over 40,000 and millions of workers facing unemployment. 

Tory prime minister Boris Johnson is pushing ahead with lifting the lockdown. 

He urged people to “shop and shop with confidence” as high street stores deemed “non-essential” reopened on Monday. 

Johnson said people should “observe the rules on social distancing”. 

But the Tories have commissioned a review to look into relaxing the two metre social distancing rule. 

It’s set to report back on 4 July on when pubs and restaurants would be able to reopen. And some ministers—including chancellor Rishi Sunak—have been trying to speed up their ­reopening in England.

Sunak was at pains to say it would only be relaxed “if it’s safe and responsible”. 

Driven

But he made clear the government was being driven by the priorities of big business not people’s health. 

“Everyone would like to see that reduced from an economic perspective,” he told BBC Radio 4 on Monday morning. 

The push for a return to work has been accelerated by Johnson’s determination to defend adviser Dominic Cummings, who publicly broke the lockdown rules. 

To hide how they’re putting profit before health, the Tories and big business are putting forward arguments that sound progressive in a bid to end the lockdown. 

So architects of ­austerity—such as Tory former chancellor George Osborne—say they want to reopen schools to help disadvantaged children. And bosses claim they want to reopen the economy to stop mass unemployment.

The scale of the economic crisis is huge, with the British economy contracting by more than 20 percent in April. 

A report from the Learning and Work Institute has warned that unemployment could reach four million by December—a rate of around 10 percent. This is higher than any rate since the Great Depression of the 1930s. 

One in three ­working age adults are already unemployed or reliant on coronavirus job retention schemes. When the furlough schemes end in the autumn, there is likely to be a sharp rise in unemployment.

Another report—from the Treasury select committee—said that around one million have been locked out of all of the coronavirus support schemes.

This include many hospitality workers who rely on tips, the bogus self‑employed and those who started working after the cut‑off date to claim support. 

Unions need to fight against any unsafe return to work and attempts to make working class people pay for the coming slump. 

The money is there to protect people’s lives and livelihoods.


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