Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures as he delivers a speech during his visit to Dudley College of Technology in Dudley, Britain, June 30, 2020. Paul Ellis/Pool via Reuters
LONDON (Reuters) – Britons should clap for capitalists and financiers, as well as the health workers who have helped the country through the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday.
In the depths of lockdown, people confined to their homes used to appear on their doorsteps and balconies every Thursday evening in an enthusiastic round of clapping for National Health Service (NHS) workers.
On Tuesday, as he set out his vision to repair Britain’s economy in a speech, Johnson said the country must build its way out of the crisis and announced fast-tracked infrastructure spending and streamlined planning laws.
Bankers and capitalists would deserve praise for their role in that recovery, he said.
“Of course we clap for NHS, but under this government we also applaud those who make our NHS possible: our innovators, our wealth creators, our capitalists, our financiers,” he said.
“In the end, it’s their willingness to take risks with their own money that will be crucial for our future success.”
In contrast with the country’s affection for the NHS, many voters still harbour a deep distrust of the banking system following the 2007-2009 financial crisis that prompted a deep recession and a long recovery in which public services to support Britain’s poorest were cut.
Johnson’s centre-right Conservative Party was elected by a landslide in 2019 before the coronavirus struck, on a pledge to address imbalances across Britain by spending more, winning over areas typically dominated by the leftist Labour Party.
“I am not a communist,” Johnson said. “I believe it is also the job of government to create the conditions for free market enterprise.”