Boris Johnson has sown fresh chaos over the government’s coronavirus plan after claiming he wants to save “every job in the country.”
The Prime Minister was branded “tin-eared” after he appeared to directly contradict Chancellor Rishi Sunak – who days ago unveiled a wage scheme that will only support “viable” jobs after November 1.
The Chancellor confirmed there’ll be a government subsidy, but only for jobs where people can work at least a third of their usual hours. He added: “I cannot save every business. I cannot save every job. No Chancellor could.”
That will hurl hundreds of thousands of people in hospitality and nightlife into the lurch – with Newcastle City Council warning of 10,000 job losses by Christmas.
Yet Mr Johnson told PMQs today: “We’re putting our arms around the whole of the UK economy and we’ll do everything we can to save every job.”
He later said “alas we cannot save every job” but added: “We’re doing everything we can to save every job in the country.”
The fresh confusion at Prime Minister’s Questions comes 24 hours after Mr Johnson got the details of his own coronavirus lockdown rules wrong in a TV press conference.
The PM wrongly claimed the ‘rule of six’, banning gatherings over six people in England, did not apply outdoors.
Labour leader Keir Starmer claimed it was “no surprise” the PM was confused, as the Tory council leader in Bolton said rules were too complex and breeding resentment.
Sir Keir said: “If the Prime Minister doesn’t understand the rules and his own council leaders are complaining about mixed messages, how does the Prime Minister expect the rest of the country to understand and follow the rules?”
Mr Johnson claimed “the people of this country do understand” – despite Labour trying to “snipe from the sidelines, to undermine what we are trying to do”.
But blaming everyone but himself, the PM also suggested the reason local lockdowns weren’t working was because people weren’t following the rules.
Asked why only Luton, out of 48 areas in England, had come out of a local lockdown, he replied: “The reason, I think, for the success of Luton is that the local people pulled together to suppress the virus, to follow the guidance, and that is the way forward for the entire country.
“That is what we did before in March and April, and I have no doubt that that is what we’re going to do again.”
Sir Keir highlighted the wave of coming job losses under the Chancellor’s Job Support Scheme – which will pay just 22% of wages for part-time workers. Firms will have to contribute 55% for a worker on 33% of their normal hours.
Sir Keir said Newcastle Council – where there are extra restrictions on meeting people in pubs and restaurants – estimate 10,000 hospitality jobs could be lost by Christmas.
“But for these extraordinary restrictions, these are viable jobs,” Labour’s leader said.
“These businesses are doing the right thing. Why has the government decided that these jobs aren’t worth saving?”
But the PM replied: “As I’ve said repeatedly, we’re putting our arms around the whole of the UK economy and we’ll do everything we can to save every job.
“I saw the Labour leader of Newcastle and I was rather surprised by what he said because actually to the best of my knowledge they were calling for the measures that we put in.
“The best way to protect our jobs and our economy is to continue to work together to comply with the measures, to drive down the virus, to keep our children in education.”
Sir Keir snapped back: ”The question I’ve asked is because of the restrictions lots of people’s jobs are at risk – 10,000 people’s jobs in Newcastle in hospitality – because of the restrictions.
“There’s 10,000 people who wanted an answer to that last question because they’re going to lose their jobs by Christmas.”
The Labour leader quoted a wedding venue owner from Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Richmond constituency about the difficulties and possible redundancies they face.
He added: “The PM shouldn’t be so tin eared to those whose jobs are at risk.
“The reality is the Chancellor has made a political choice to reduce economic support just when the new health restrictions are coming in.”
Boris Johnson defended the Government’s economic support – saying the furlough plan was “far more generous” than most European countries – and said he “feels” for the business owner.
But he added: “The best way forward is for him and all other businesses in the country is if we all pull together now, get the virus down, keep the economy moving.”
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