Wednesday, 30 Sep 2020

Boris to reveal roadmap to 'normality' for whole UK with no second lockdown

Boris Johnson is expected to lay out his roadmap for getting the UK ‘back to normal’ when he meets with his Cabinet today.

Pupils return to school in England this week, following those in Scotland last month, with millions of children entering their classrooms for the first time in almost six months.

The back to school push is seen as a ‘vital step in the process of national recovery’, leader of the Association of School and College Leaders, Geoff Barton, told the Telegraph.

Around 40% of schools in England are expected to open today, with the rest following later in the week. Only vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers have been allowed to go in since classrooms were closed on March 20.

A Government source said the Prime Minister will set out his ‘priorities for the autumn’ during a meeting with ministers this morning as the first lessons of the new school year take place.

‘He wants to gradually get back to more normality, and the return of schools plays a big part in that,’ the source told the Daily Mail.

‘As children go back more parents will be freed up to return to work. At the same time, [Mr Johnson] wants to get further down the track to recovery on Covid – getting the test-and-trace regime improved and getting the local lockdown process beefed up, so that we never have to have a return to national lockdown.

‘And you will see a doubling down on the agenda from the election – levelling up opportunity across the country.’

Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith has called on bosses to ‘show some backbone’ and ‘start getting their people back to work’ now that children are returning to school.

He said: ‘If we don’t get this right, the economy will suffer, people will lose their jobs and more people will die.’

Among those going back to work today are MPs who return to Westminster after a summer recess plagued with quarantine restrictions, local lockdowns, a U-turn on exams and a worsening migrant crisis.

The PM will face pressure from his own backbench after coming under fire for presiding over what one Tory MP said had been a ‘megadisaster from one day to the next’.

Many MPs are demanding reassurances from ministers as Parliament resumes this afternoon, while Labour is pushing for a delay to next year’s A-levels and GCSEs – something Gavin Williamson is said to be considering.

The education secretary is due to be grilled in the Commons over the summer exams crisis today. He has stressed that children returning to classrooms is crucial ‘not only for their education but for their development and wellbeing too’.

But a senior Conservative MP said backbenchers were ‘tired of the U-turns’. He told PA: ‘There’s that element of calamity – and frankly there are people from the Red Wall seats who are getting jittery. But not only Red Wall seats, but other people who haven’t got marginal seats like that.

‘We’d like to be in a Government that has the impression of being competent – rather than lurching from one issue to another and then after a short time doing a U-turn.’

He said MPs were left with ‘egg on their face’ each time they defended Government policy to constituents, and then had to reverse their stance.

The Conservatives won a majority of 80 seats at last year’s general election, turning traditional Labour constituencies – which formed the so-called Red Wall – blue.

Some MPs are concerned that these newly won seats could be returned to Labour at the next election if the Government performs poorly.

Mr Johnson is now under pressure to ensure the reopening of schools does not push up coronavirus cases, while finding a way to pay for the economic impact of coronavirus is already dividing Conservatives.

He also faces the challenge of trying to strike a Brexit deal before the end of the transition period, the merger of the Foreign Office and Department for International Development, and the expected rise in unemployment when the furlough scheme ends.

The PM will chair a meeting of his Cabinet on Tuesday morning, and is later expected to announce Simon Case as the new Cabinet Secretary – the UK’s most senior civil servant.

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