Tory grandee Michael Heseltine is backing Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, to coordinate the country’s economic recovery from what is projected to be the worst recession since the Second World War. For now, the UK’s economy remains at standstill over fears of a second wave of coronavirus cases if social distancing measures are relaxed too early. Mr Heseltine said: “This initiative will require a senior minister to be put in charge.
“Michael Gove would be well-placed but, to succeed, it will need the enthusiastic support of the Prime Minister.”
He added: “Without this endorsement central Government departments will do what they always do and approve projects that conform to their functional responsibilities and specific experiences.”
A gloomy Office for Budget Responsibility forecast predicts the economy will drop by 35 percent this quarter and 13 percent by the end of the year.
Mr Gove ids thought to privately have backed calls to reopen the economy early.
However Health Secretary Matt Hancock has argued for its continued closure, with the long-term benefit of containing the virus and saving lives paving the way for a stronger, healthier economy.
Mr Hancock told Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday: “Now that we’re at the peak, and we very much hope that things will start to slow down and, if and when they do, then the speed with which the number of new cases reduces will frankly will determine how long we need to keep the measures on and that is as yet unknown.”
Meanwhile, Mr Heseltine said governments should be looking at options on how to kickstart the economy after the pandemic.
He added: “The Government should now invite the mayors to draw up proposals that would most quickly and most effectively rekindle their economies.
“These plans will not conform to some national concept as the local challenges are all different, as are their strengths to cope with them.”
British citizens want businesses and the economy to remain on pause until the coronavirus has been contained, according to a recent study.
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The Ipsos Mori poll spanned 14 countries and included more than 28,000 people.
Of those polled, Brits were least keen on firing up the economy as ministers face pressure to unveil their coronavirus exit strategy.
Seventy percent of those surveyed agreed with this.
The poll follows news that several business chains are reopening despite lockdown being extended until May 7.
Greggs is set to reopen 20 stores around Newcastle from May 4 as a “controlled trial”.
John Lewis hopes to open all its shops next month while B&Q has already opened some stores.
Others are to offer takeaway and delivery services such as Pret, KFC and Burger King.
Prime minister Boris Johnson has said in his first speech since recovering from COVID-19 that it is too soon to start lifting measures.
He said the UK is in “high risk” mode as the country begins to pass the peak.
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