Why the prime minister’s roadmap must be a one-way route

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, Londo

Prime minister Boris Johnson speaks in the House of Commons - Credit: PA

“Cautious yet irreversible  … a one-way road to freedom.”

So, it is slow and steady wins the race?

That has been the mantra in Downing Street in the past few weeks.

Boris Johnson has been stung twice by prematurely lifting lockdowns – twice bitten, thrice shy?

He has his cabinet onside – more or less. His next door neighbour chancellor Rishi Sunak was keen to get more of the economy moving earlier but that view has been dampened.

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And the main reason has been the voice of bosses – including those here in the East – who have made it crystal clear: “This MUST be the last lockdown.”

But if the news on vaccines and infection rates continues to be positive expect pressure to build from the more hawkish members of his backbenches. As it stands he feels empowered enough to ignore those dissenting voices.

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The prime minister is confident that making sure the British public never has to endure the misery of another national lockdown is more important than a few naysayers. And he also believes the traction of their arguments will disappear as the nation slowly gets back to its feet.

For many parents there will be celebrations – children absolutely must be the priority.

Not being able to meet friends in the pub, get a hair cut or go to the gym until at least spring is of course disappointing – especially for people whose livelihoods rely upon these sectors.

But making sure our schools are functioning has to come first. The long-term prosperity of our region is indelibly linked with the education of our children and young people.  

There was some new hope for businesses that have been ravaged by this awful pandemic – a promise from the PM that his government will do everything in its power to protect jobs.

For many firms this won’t be enough. But the hints that the chancellor will extend help in next week’s Budget will allow many to sleep a little easier.

Some here in the East will be disappointed that there is no plan to return to the tier system which might have allowed areas with lower rates to unlock earlier. But the confusion of the autumn often caused more problems than solutions – and in the end it did not work.

Credit where it is due – we are only at this stage because the government was on top of the vaccine approval and the rollout.

The NHS, with help from the Army, has done this nation proud. And without that incredible effort we wouldn’t even have a cautious plan – we would have no plan, no roadmap and no brighter summer ahead.

But we all still have our bit to do.

Without the continued stoicism and sacrifice of the people of the East this timeline might faulter. Now is not the time to relax, but it is the time to hope.  

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