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School of Politics and International Relations

What is Boris Johnson's 'New Deal' - and how does it compare to Franklin D Roosevelt's?


The Prime Minister has announced a plan to spend £5 billion on a programme of accelerated spending on hospitals, roads, rail, prisons, courts, schools and high streets to help the country bounce back from coronavirus. The recovery package, announced as "positively Rooseveltian," has been labelled by Mr Johnson as not just a New Deal, but a fair deal for the British people. As a share of the economy, this spending plan is 200 times less ambitious than Roosevelt's original New Deal, amounting to just 0.2 per cent of our GDP. The figure is also dwarfed by the stimulus packages pledged by other world leaders, for example, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel's €130 billion plan, which accounts for nearly four per cent of the country's GDP. The Prime Minister's cautious tone is perhaps due to the tightrope he walks on the issue of spending, with many of his backbenchers naturally more supportive of tax cuts to stimulate the economy. But he is also aware of the promise he made to "red wall" voters he won over in last year's general election. Professor Tim Bale, from Queen Mary University of London, summed up the dilemma and said: "A 'Rooseveltian New Deal' strategy would go down fairly well with a large proportion of the electorate, and even with the Conservative electorate. The problem he has is that this is not what most of his MPs joined the Conservative Party to do."

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