The world is in crisis. All over the world, governments and businesses – and most importantly people – are slowly adjusting to a world that seemed implausible only a few weeks ago.
Yet here we are. And if there is any certainty now, it is that we are unlikely to emerge from this to return to the world we all inhabited only a few weeks ago.
Massive efforts are being made – rightly – to defeat the invisible enemy of Covid-19. But equally, we must now think hard about what we want our post-Covid-19 world to look like.
While many are calling on Brits to muster up the Blitz spirit, we should also look to recapture the spirit that followed the war and changed our country for the better by creating the NHS.
The birth of the NHS was only made possible by a wholesale change in attitude. The extent of the Second World War meant that the idea of the government looking after citizens’ health no longer seemed strange.
Just like Attlee’s post-war Britain after the Second World War, we must come out of this crisis stronger – but changed. That means planning for the future now.
Future gazing like this may seem a little insensitive at this time. But if the economic impact of Covid-19 is anything like as predicted – with consultancy KPMG warning that the UK’s GDP could shrink by 5.4 per cent if the outbreak persists – then we can not hide our heads in the sand and pretend that many people will not be left unemployed.
Investment from both government and business into job creation post-Covid -19 will be vital.
I would argue that creating those jobs must be allied to making our economy greener and more sustainable – especially if we do not want to defeat one threat in Covid-19 to only then blithely sit back and let climate change destroy our way of life, as we know it will from the crystal-clear science on the topic.
That is why we must now draw up plans to concretely shift the UK – and the world – to an economy underpinned by clean growth, creating both jobs and sustainable businesses.
Part of that push will mean creating more purpose-built sites like my company’s 635-acre campus in Somerset that can host clean and innovative industries like electric battery factories to supply a fleet of electric cars to replace our gas-guzzling automobiles.
The UK will need many more such sites for the economic impact to be truly felt. But, imagine if a decade from now, our country is a hub of manufacturing again, with multiple purpose-built sites hosting advanced manufacturing, life sciences and sustainable industry that provide thousands of local jobs in areas of the country that have been left behind by decades of investment being poured back into the already prosperous London and the Southeast.
The last time this country faced a crisis of this scale, we came out of it stronger and gained in the NHS an institution that we can rightly be proud of.
We will overcome Covid-19, and when we do we should strain every fibre and sinew to ensure that we emerge having helped to start creating a changed, but better, country.