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Boris Johnson Rules Out Return to Austerity in Post-Virus Recovery Plan

Boris Johnson Rules Out Return to Austerity in Post-Virus Recovery Plan

Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed the U.K. will spend large sums on hospitals, schools and roads to jump-start the economy as it emerges from the coronavirus lockdown that has plunged the country into what may be the worst recession in three centuries.

In an interview in the Mail on Sunday Johnson rejected a return to the austerity policies that followed the 2008 financial crisis and said the country will “build our way back” from the crisis through “shovel-ready” projects.

“The lesson is to act fast and we’re going to make sure that we have plans to help people whose old jobs are not there any more to get the opportunities they need,” Johnson said. “We are absolutely not going back to the austerity of 10 years ago.”

Johnson is expected to unveil the spending plans in a major speech on Tuesday, while Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is leading a new infrastructure task force to identify and speed up projects. The government pledge comes at a critical moment after the U.K. economy shrank a record 20.4% in April, effectively wiping out almost 18 years of growth in two months.

The crisis has sparked an intense internal debate among Tories who for decades have stood for the free market, fiscal prudence and libertarianism, and are now on course to spend well over 130 billion pounds to rescue the economy.