Boris Johnson says coronavirus has been 'disaster' for UK and suggests 'Rooseveltian' approach to rebuilding economy
Wrong to return to 'what people called austerity', says PM ahead of major speech
Boris Johnson has warned the UK economy faces "bumpy times" ahead as he set out his desire for a "Rooseveltian approach" to rebuilding after the pandemic.
In a rare broadcast interview, the prime minister said the coronavirus crisis had been "a disaster" for the UK and an economic effort similar to US president Franklin D Roosevelt's "New Deal" was needed to lift the UK out of the doldrums.
Mr Johnson said it would be wrong to return to "what people called austerity" and made it clear that he wants to boost infrastructure spending to avert a devastating hit to the economy.
Ahead of a major speech in Dudley on Tuesday, Mr Johnson told Times Radio: "This has been a disaster, let's not mince our words, this has been an absolute nightmare for the country.
"The country has gone through a profound shock. But in those moments you have the opportunity to change and to do things better.
"We really want to build back better, to do things differently, to invest in infrastructure, transport, broadband - you name it."
He said the chancellor would set out the plans in the autumn but he made it clear that infrastructure spending would form a major part of the government's plans.
"But in the end what you can't do at this moment is go back to what people called austerity, it wasn't actually austerity but people called it austerity, and I think that would be a mistake," he said.
"I think this is the moment for a Rooseveltian approach to the UK."
Mr Johnson said there will be "some bumpy times" but the UK will get through the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic "very, very well indeed".
"So what we're going to be doing in the next few months is really doubling down on our initial agenda which was all about investment, if you remember, in infrastructure, in education, in technology, to bring the country together," Mr Johnson said.
His comments came ahead of a much-trailed speech on Tuesday, where the prime minister will seek to shift the focus from the crisis onto the recovery with a 10-year schools rebuilding programme - with ?1bn for the first 50 projects.
However Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer warned that the record of Conservative-led governments over a decade has been ¡°talk, talk, talk rather than build, build, build¡±.
Mr Johnson also hinted at a shift towards taking a more interventionist stance on obesity after his stint in intensive care battling coronavirus.
He said: "I was very lucky, I had wonderful care and I think probably the best thing I can say is it gave me an even deeper love and admiration for the NHS and everything they can do."
Asked how it changed him, he said: "Well I did lose some weight, it's perfectly true."
Mr Johnson said he had previously taken a libertarian stance on obesity - branding a levy on sugar as a "sin tax" - but he was now concerned by the pressure on the NHS from associated problems with being overweight.
"We certainly must have a care for the health of our population and we will be happier and fitter and more resistant to diseases like Covid if we can tackle obesity," he said.
The prime minister also claimed to have forgotten why he was photographed doing press ups on the front page of Mail on Sunday, before saying he wanted to "demonstrate I was fit".
He added: "When I came out of hospital I did notice there were occasional pieces in the papers saying that, you know, I was a bit of a wraith-like or something - complete nonsense, I want you know. I am feeling very well.¡±