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Coronavirus: Boris Johnson says we must also 'clap for bankers who make our NHS possible'

The Independent logo The Independent 4 days ago Rob Merrick
a group of people holding a sign © Provided by The Independent

Boris Johnson urged the public to “clap for bankers” as he appeared to rule out tax hikes on the rich to pay for the economic crash sparked by coronavirus.

Seeking to calm Conservative fears about an infrastructure spending splurge, the prime minister insisted he was committed to “free market enterprise”.

“I am not a communist,” Mr Johnson promised, adding: “Yes, of course we clap for our NHS, but under this government we also applaud those who make our NHS possible.

“Our innovators, our wealth creators, our capitalists and financiers – because, in the end, it is their willingness to take risks with their own money that will be crucial for our future success.”

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Speaking in the West Midlands – where he promised a bonfire of planning rules, so spark more housebuilding – Mr Johnson also hinted the rich were safe from future tax increases.

“When I say level up, I don’t mean attacking our great companies. I don’t mean impeding the success of London – far from it,” he pledged.

“Or launching some punitive raid on the wealth creators. I don’t believe in tearing people down any more than I believe in tearing down statues that are part of our heritage.”

The ‘clap for carers’ event drew millions out onto the streets every Thursday evening, before its organiser stopped it because of fears it had become “politicised”.

In Dudley, Mr Johnson insisted his strategy was for “jobs, jobs, jobs”, but could not put a number on how many posts his plan will create.

And, pointedly, he refused to commit to unemployment remaining below 3m, saying only: “I'm not going to put a number on it.”

“We don't yet know what the full economic impact is going to be, but certainly the furlough scheme runs on to October and we will do everything we can to get this economy moving.

“So, this is a programme for job, jobs, jobs, because it's by building, building, building – building our infrastructure and building our schools and building our hospitals, building back better, bolder and greener –that we will get the jobs that this nation needs and that's our strategy.”

And he added: “We are going to work as hard as we possibly can to make sure that people have an opportunity guarantee, that they have the chance of an in-work placement, that they have the chance of an apprenticeship.”

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