Chancellor Rishi Sunak is risking “mass unemployment” unless there is an urgent rethink of the Covid recovery plan, it has been claimed.
Former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown used his first keynote party conference speech for 10 years to call on the government to deliver “within days” a new, wholly rewritten economic recovery plan.
He called for ministers to extend the furlough scheme beyond October 31, provide a fully funded work guarantee for all young people who need it and deliver a Green New Deal.
Speaking to Labour Connected on Tuesday afternoon, Mr Brown highlighted “frightening” job application figures showing that some job vacancies are attracting 2,500 applications for just one position.
“These are the worst odds against finding a job for 50 years,” he said.
Mr Brown also expressed concern that even after the Black Lives Matter campaign, “black jobs don’t seem to matter to this government, as Bame unemployment heads up to 20%”.
He also warned that youth unemployment could rise to 30%, and to as high as 50% among 18-19 year olds .
The former Prime Minister signalled only through “co-operation and solidarity” would all parts of the UK be able to deliver what is needed and the success of the new restrictions will depend on the level of government support, especially for those who have to stay at home
And in a direct call to SNP ministers in Edinburgh, he said Scotland should also be leading in a UK-Wide Alliance for Full Employment to secure jobs and social justice for all.
Brown said that all of these necessary and urgent measures required the “politics of cooperation, not separation” to be delivered for the UK as a whole.
He said “Let us show people our vision of a united Britain is built not on the shifting sands of warring nationalisms but on the unbreakable rock of solidarity and a willingness to share.
“United around the same guarantee everywhere to every family of a rising living wage, improved child benefits, decent pensions and free NHS and education with the costs and the benefits shared by all – the real same universal basic income for all the citizens in all of the UK.”
Mr Brown’s calls have been welcomed by leading Labour figures.
Unite General Secretary, Len McLuskey said, “The time to act on jobs is now. We are staring the danger of mass unemployment in the face and only urgent government action can prevent a jobs catastrophe.”
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard added: “These alarming figures, coming as we face the threat of the economy collapsing and unemployment rocketing, show just how vital it is that the goal of full employment is placed at the heart of policy making.
“In Scotland, almost 350,000 workers are facing a furlough cliff-edge next month – and this could lead to long-term unemployment on a scale the people of Scotland have not seen in their lifetimes.
“Scottish Labour has been advocating a Jobs Guarantee Scheme since the economic impact of Covid-19 became clear.
“The real priority is about whether people are going to have jobs or not and as Scottish Labour leader I fully support this UK-wide Alliance for Full Employment and welcome Gordon Brown’s launch of this initiative in Scotland.”
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