'Families face impossible choice': Boris Johnson's new back-to-work rules condemned

Labour frontbenchers have criticised Boris Johnson after he announced a partial easing of the coronavirus lockdown on Sunday night.

Party leader Sir Keir Starmer claimed the public is “scared” following the prime minister’s address to the nation.

Other frontbenchers focused on Johnson’s plea for people to return to their workplaces if they cannot work from home, while urging people to avoid using public transport where possible.

In his speech, Johnson said: “We now need to stress that anyone who can’t work from home, for instance those in construction or manufacturing, should be actively encouraged to go to work.”

Sir Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner have criticised Boris Johnson following his coronavirus lockdown speech.
Sir Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner have criticised Boris Johnson following his coronavirus lockdown speech.

MPs said this would leave families with an “impossible choice” on Monday morning and accused Johnson of being “completely detached from reality”.

Another said it was “nonsense” that “people can go to work mixing with dozens of colleagues but no one can get a cuddle from their grandchildren”.

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Starmer, who said Johnson’s speech “raised more questions than it answers”, told Sky News that the PM did not offer “consensus” over his plans.

“I think the public are very scared and anxious about what comes next,” he said. “They want reassurance.

“If they can see political parties, employers, England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland all broadly on the same page – that helps with reassurance and confidence. But I’m afraid we’ve arrived tonight without that.

“That basic consensus that I was arguing for, I don’t think is there tonight.”

Here is what other frontbenchers had to say after Johnson said anyone who can’t work from home should go back to work:

Deputy leader Angela Rayner

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth

Shadow mental health minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan

Shadow justice minister Alex Cunningham

The PM said in his address: “We have been working to establish new guidance for employers to make workplaces COVID-secure”.

Johnson said those people returning to work “should avoid public transport if at all possible – because we must and will maintain social distancing, and capacity will therefore be limited”.

He encouraged using cars, “or even better by walking or bicycle”.

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