Prime Minister Boris Johnson today set out his ‘new deal’ for the UK’s economy’, saying he believes in building people up rather than tearing statues down.

Mr Johnson said he will follow in the footsteps of president Franklin D Roosevelt, who led the US out of the Great Depression in the 1930s, by investing in infrastructure projects to help stimulate the nation’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

He slammed the recent spate of statues being torn down by anti-racist protesters, in particular the vandalisation of Winston Churchill’s statue, calling him “our greatest war time leader”.

The Prime Minister said the nation must act now in “this interval” to plan the response to the coronavirus crisis and fix the problems “most brutally illuminated in that Covid lightning flash”.

Delivering a keynote speech at a technical college in Dudley, West Midlands, the Prime Minister said: “We all knew when we went into lockdown that there would be huge economic costs, we could see what would happen and yet we did it, the United Kingdom, in a display of solidarity not seen since the Second World War.

“And so today we must combine that energy and drive and that concentrated burst of collective willpower that protected the NHS and controlled the virus and saved literally hundreds of thousands of lives and we must work fast because we’ve already seen the vertiginous drop in GDP and we know that people are worried now about their jobs and their businesses.

“And we’re waiting as if between the flash of lightning and the thunderclap with our hearts in our mouths for the full economic reverberations to appear.

“And so we must use this moment now, this interval to plan our response and to fix of course the problems that were most brutally illuminated in that Covid lightning flash.”

He listed these as the social care system and the parts of Government “that seemed to respond so sluggishly”.

More follows…