I can’t stop thinking about the speech a Prime Minister should have made. So I wrote one.
I speak to you now in the midst of the greatest crisis in my lifetime. Each of us faces challenges we never envisaged, as does the government.
Life is difficult, and may remain so for a long time.
It is natural that you should wish things to return to normal.
Tonight I want to explain our plan for recovery.
Before I begin, I feel it’s fair to warn the nation: the plan will not go smoothly. Many challenges lie ahead, and there will be times the plan needs to be amended or even temporarily reversed.
My government will communicate this to you as best we can.
Like each of you, we want to lift the lockdown. But we must only do that when it is safe to do so.
And that means we must take careful steps.
From this week, I will instruct our military to prepare workplaces in vital industries for a return to work.
The army will help to install distancing measures in manufacturers of PPE and facemasks, and in their supply chains.
This may take time, as materials need to be sourced or imported. We will move as quickly as we can, but we must protect lives.
But once safety measures are in place, we will ask that sector to return to work. Their first task will be to provide safety equipment for the next sector of our economy that we will return to normal work.
It is vital that we continue to feed and care for ourselves. So the first sectors to be supported into work will be food production and transportation, and healthcare.
Each week, we will assess the progress of the disease, and the progress of our capacity to change workplaces and social spaces.
And as we make progress, we will give support to a new sector to return to normal work.
As a sector returns to work, the treasury will gradually reduce the furlough support for that sector. In the first month, employees will receive 66% of their salary from the taxpayer. In the second month, 33%.
This will support businesses, and allow them to place orders and invest. We urge business to do this. And therefore, we will suspend any share buy-backs and bonuses until 2022. Business must help to kick-start the economy, not simply reward shareholders.
We will also stop any support whatsoever for businesses which do not pay a fair rate of tax in the UK. This extends not only to direct support for business, but also to the other measures I announce today. Unless a business pays at least 20% of its income in tax, it will receive no support from government.
We feel this is a fair way to restart the economy.
But we must also consider families, and the burden the restrictions have had. And we must consider safe ways to begin to return to normality.
To begin with, we must consider schools. We cannot ask parents to return to work if there is no school provision. So the next sector we will support back into normality will be schools. I will return to this subject in a moment.
It will also be impossible to return to normal work unless there is a way to travel there in safety.
Therefore my government will enforce more flexible working for every workplace in the country. From next week we will launch a website where each business can apply for working hours.
Most workplaces now start at 9am, but as long as we need to enforce social distancing, businesses will now start from 8am to 11am.
This means the pressure on transport during each hour will be reduced to 25% of its current rate, making it easier to maintain distancing on busy public transport.
Employees will be given passes to allow travel to begin only during their allocated period. We hope this is a temporary measure, and full freedoms will return as we beat the disease.
We will also immediately assist manufacturers of bicycles to increase production, and will provide grants to businesses to help them to fund the purchase of cycles for their employees, as soon as they are ready. We hope they will be ready in time for each new industry to return to normal.
And we encourage everybody who can cycle to work to do that, rather than overload public transport.
And of course, if it is possible to work from home, we ask businesses to continue to do that.
These measures, combined, should make it possible to travel safely to work. And they will benefit the environment and health of the nation, as people cycle more than they drive.
I spoke of schools earlier. Obviously, flexible working hours means schools must be open for longer periods, as parents drop off children earlier and collect them later.
Therefore I will immediately reverse cuts to school budgets. We will immediately offer employment to tens of thousands of Classroom Support Assistants, and task local councils with setting up before- and after-school clubs.
I have spoken of safety, healthcare, education and travel. And as time progresses, my government will give as much notice as possible to the other sectors of our economy, allowing them to plan a safe return to work.
Now I turn to our lives at home.
Lockdown has been difficult for all of us. I hope we can begin to relieve that difficulty at once.
From next week, my government will send wristbands to every household, granting them times during which they may exercise freely. Each household will have three 1 hour periods per day for exercise and safe socialising.
You must still observe social distancing from everybody who is not in your household. Until a vaccine is available, social distancing is still the only way to reduce death.
This process will take time. There are people who want us to move faster.
But as Prime Minister, my primary responsibility is for the lives and safety of people of this country. I will only lift restrictions as it is safe to do so.
And if we find our plan leads to rising infections, we will reverse it. We must all accept that this is a necessary inconvenience. I wish to restore freedoms, but at the right speed, and in the right order, so each new freedom doesn’t cost lives.
It is said that in war, the first casualty is truth.
And this is a war.
But unlike any previous war, we cannot fool this enemy with misinformation.
Our chief weapon is science. And science demands truth and honesty.
So we must be honest. We must be honest to ourselves, and in the messages we share online.
And both myself and my government must be honest.
So in all candour: mistakes have been made. Nobody alive has led a government through anything like this. There is no experience to call upon.
It is right that we should own up to mistakes, so you know to trust us in future.
I apologise for the things my government has got wrong.
I cannot guarantee we will get everything right in future. Much is still unknown.
But we do know this: our nation, like much of the world, faces huge challenges that will last for many years.
These will not only be health challenges. They will be economic, social, and environmental.
As we make increasing progress against the immediate health crisis, we will have more time to focus on the future.
I plan to ask governments across the world to work as one, to find imaginative and bold solutions to the problems we face.
Problems of mass unemployment, large state debts, vanishing industries, automation destroying jobs, and the environment.
We must reimagine global trade for a greener future.
Fortunately, much work has already been done. There are promising ideas that all nations have, until now, been too timid to embrace.
Nobody wished for Coronavirus. It has caused untold grief as it swept across the planet.
But in its wake I see opportunities to imagine a better world.
Nothing we achieve can relieve the heartache of those bereaved by this terrible disease.
But it is possible to see a more hopeful, more just, more sustainable world beyond.
The ideas we were once dismissed as utopian now seem more achievable than ever.
It may seem too soon to talk of these things. But we have an opportunity to plan the future we want.
Just as a return to a thriving economy and a safe society requires a careful steps, so the long-term plan for a planet after the pandemic requires careful steps.
We must accept that the world we regarded as normal may be gone forever. Normal may be a place we can never return to.
But we have before us a choice for something better. Safer. Kinder. More sustainable. More enriching.
The times now are dark. But we must all hope and plan for a brighter future.
I pledge that my government and I, together with the leaders of other parties, industries, unions and nations, will work to create that future, and return to you the freedoms and security you and your families deserve.
Thank you, and good night.