James O’Brien slams government over announcement that workers must to return to the office

PUBLISHED: 16:37 28 July 2020 | UPDATED: 16:40 28 July 2020

James O'Brien; LBC, Twitter

James O'Brien; LBC, Twitter

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A radio presenter has slammed the government for suggesting employees should return to the workplace when the UK’s coronavirus death rate is currently one of the highest in the world.

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LBC radio’s James O’Brien levelled with ministers who pleaded with bosses to force workers back into the office.

Referring to a Daily Mail survey that found a number of companies would not bring their employees back until the end of the year, he said: “Most sensible people would go ‘So what?’,

“They’ve made a calculation based on their commercial activity that their business is not going to be affected negatively by continuing to keep people at home, therefore they’re not going to risk their workforce’s help.

“And that’s the end of the conversation. Unless you’re doing the bidding of Downing Street, in which case you run a headline saying ‘Giants who have let fear keep UK PLC locked down’.

“What’s the fear? We’ve got 50,000 dead people. I’d quite like not to become one of them. Or people I love to be added to that number.”

News of a delayed return has spurred ministers and Tory backbenchers, such as Brexiteer Iain Duncan Smith, to publicly pressure executives to get workers back into the office out of fear companies that rely on their footfall would soon go bust.

Answering critics, O’Brien said: “That’s an irrational fear now is it? So talk me through why I can’t go to Spain without being stuck at home for two weeks, even when I’ve come in from an island where I’ve got a lower risk of catching coronavirus than I have in my own home town. You can’t, can you?”

The radio presenter went on to argue that the government had no right to decide when people had to return to the workplace.

“Who is in charge of deciding where you work from? Your employer? Dominic Cummings? A Daily Mail columnist? or You?” he asked.

“The answer, if you’re lucky, is a combination of A and D.”

The former Newsnight presenter then lambasted the Daily Mail journalist behind the survey.

“The weirdest thing of course is that they’re supposed to be Free Marketeers... Brexit was built on freeing businesses from red tape and regulations,” he exclaimed.

“So, how come all of the businesses that are freely deciding what they want to do and essentially regulate themselves have come in for a kicking from the best selling newspaper in the country that would ordinarily be on the side of bosses and absolutely oppose to any workforce who ever dared to unionise?”

“What’s going on?” a puzzled O’Brien asked.

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