It was a joy to read in one newspaper this morning that the theme of the Chancellor’s statement today would be jobs, jobs, jobs, which had a pretty familiar ring to it, as did the reports that the Prime Minister wants to bring about a green industrial revolution. In fact, I half expected the Chancellor to open his speech this afternoon by promising an economic policy for the many, not the few. These are truly extraordinary times, but in the end, history will not measure the Chancellor’s success in newspaper headlines or column inches. It will be measured by the unemployment figures. It will be measured by the strength of the recovery, and it will be measured by whether he is able to build back better, build back greener and build a brighter future for every part of our country after a decade of failed economic policies.
Just as these are extraordinary times, this is no ordinary recession. The shutdown of our economy—essential to saving lives—has delivered the biggest contraction of economic activity in living memory, with a record fall in GDP measuring three times that which occurred during the financial crisis. Every community has been affected. Between March and May, an additional 1.6 million people claimed unemployment-related benefits, bringing the total to just under 3 million. We have seen the largest quarterly fall in vacancies since records began in 1971, and 22% of businesses reported turnover down by more than 50%. While the impact has been felt across our country, we know that it has not been felt evenly. Some in our services sector have been hit particularly hard, with the latest Office for National Statistics figures showing a fall in output in accommodation and food of 92%, compared with 20% in professional services.