'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.”
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
The PM said to workers don’t use public transport to get back to work use a car instead? Many workers in low paid jobs indeed many of the occupations the PM mentioned cannot afford cars, completely detached from reality of the workforce who rely on public transport #COVID19
— 🌈 Angela Rayner 🌈 (@AngelaRayner) May 10, 2020
Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy
Deeply concerned that people are being asked to go to work tomorrow, but avoid public transport, and before workplace safety measures have been introduced. Too many families tonight will face a sleepless night faced with an impossible choice. We need clarity on this urgently
— Lisa Nandy (@lisanandy) May 10, 2020
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth
Lack of clarity tonight from Boris Johnson. I have always warned this virus thrives on ambiguity.
Many tonight will be asking whether they are being asked to go back to work or not tomorrow, what safety measures will be in place, how will they get to work #StayHome
— Jonathan Ashworth (@JonAshworth) May 10, 2020
Shadow mental health minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan
The Government are forcing people back to work if they can't work from home, but they 'should' avoid public transport. This will put some of the lowest paid workers at the mercy of bosses!
— Dr Rosena Allin-Khan (@DrRosena) May 10, 2020
Shadow justice minister Alex Cunningham
An absolute nonsense. People can go to work mixing with dozens of colleagues but no-one can get a cuddle from their grandchildren. https://t.co/gireJf2ttS
— Alex Cunningham MP (@ACunninghamMP) May 10, 2020
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”.