On Monday Boris Johnson chose to address the nation from the doorstp of No. 10, thanking NHS and key staff for protecting the health service from being overwhelmed, and for aiding his own speedy recovery. The Prime Minister also noted that indicators predict that Britain may have finally reached the so-called ‘peak’ in Coronavirus cases, and the situation will now only improve.

This has naturally begged the question in the minds of the nation – what will be the UK’s exit strategy?

Whatever is decided, it will need to vary in scope – but starting with resuming public transport, allowing people to return to work and a general easing in the restrictions on travel.

A lifting of the lockdown measures is expected to start soon, but what is unknown to the majority of people is what will happen to the country after we return to the new ‘normal’.

For some this will be a significant concern, since sadly many may have little or nothing to return to.

According to analysis by the Resolution Foundation, more than nine million workers are expected to be furloughed under the government’s job retention scheme (JRS), at a cost to the taxpayer over the next three months of £30-40bn.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) also says that 50 per cent of companies are putting most of their staff into the same programme.
Being able to pause activity but retain staff may have been a welcome support to struggling businesses, but what has economists worried is the other 22 million workers in the UK but who aren’t on a furlough scheme.

We must assume that some of these workers are still employed and their income hasn’t been interrupted but, considering the restrictive nature of the government’s lockdown measures, it will be a minority at best that have continued to receive their regular paychecks.

The Prime Minister also stressed on Monday that: “this is the moment of maximum risk”. He is certainly right about this, though it may be for a different reason.

Since the government is now claiming that the worst may have passed, the potential after-effects of the pandemic must be considered now rather than later, and plans put in place urgently to avoid the worst.

We have already seen France fall into recession and it is therefore quite likely that Britain would follow suit if firm action isn’t taken now.

We shouldn’t, however, presume the worst, as a major global economic crisis isn’t an unprecedented event, and they are survivable.
After the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and as the Great Depression began to wreck the economies of the world, Britain also saw mass unemployment in Wales and the North East, and unemployment across the whole of the UK in 1930 shot up to 20 per cent.

The government’s initial response was to cut public spending and raise taxes to try and resuscitate the economy, but this only depressed the economy even further.

Britain’s economic situation only began to improve in 1935, under Stanley Baldwin’s third premiership.

Baldwin approved massive public works, which consisted of railway building, ship construction and other major infrastructure projects.

The stereotypical image of Scots working in the shipyards of the Clyde, for instance, comes from the large orders placed by the government in the 1930s to generate jobs in Scotland.

These efforts were auspicious and even fortuitous, as Baldwin’s Navy and Air force rearmament schemes, intended to save the economy, would also later save England from a catastrophic invasion threat in 1940.

If the present government were wise, it would take these lessons of the past, and in particular the example of Stanley Baldwin, and use its experiences and skills to help a better and stronger future for our economy, and for our United Kingdom.

It could even argued that we require similar strategies of defence spending today – the Royal Navy in particular is in dire need of increased funding and new ships. Our new carriers, Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales, were only a fraction of what the Navy wished to build, but their plans were thwarted by restrictions on government spending.

Equally, the controversial HS2 project, that only a few months ago filled countless newspaper columns, has been all but forgotten. A renewed and even expanded commitment to this could deliver a massive boost to wages and the regions if enough political force and political determination was put behind it.

Although may businesses, especially our smaller ones, will have suffered badly over recent months, there will be countless opportunities for firms to help rebuild our economy.

As the Baldwin government found, investing rapidly and boldly in major infrastructure projects knocks on to support the countless smaller enterprises that supply and service these ventures.
We know that the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, and social distancing and other measures will be with us for some time to come.
With only a few very minor exceptions, the whole country has responded brilliantly and responsibly to every request the government has made of us in recent weeks to limit the spread of the virus.
People are not expecting to be able to return to work tomorrow, though many would no doubt like to do so.

What we are looking for is the much-discussed ‘exit strategy’, which thankfully the Prime Minister has already started to formulate this week.
The bold and dynamic economic interventions of the late 1930s only succeeded because legislators were committed to saving their citizens.

They had a vision for the future of their country, and the unshakable determination to rebuild the British economy and thereby improve the well-being of everyone.

We haven’t heard a great deal from any of our politicians since the COVID-19 pandemic struck us – perhaps understandably they will have been focussed on supporting and helping their local constituencies.

The new ‘hybrid’ parliament involving just a handful of lawmakers attending and 100 others joining virtually has been a good start, and House of Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg is to be congratulated for making this happen.

But the time is coming fast when politicians of all parties will need to devote every energy they have to working together to rebuild our economy and our country.

It won’t be a quick or easy task, but it can be done. It will, however, not only require politicians to put aside their differences and work together, but all of us to do the same.