John Lewis cuts its ‘shared’ bonus – thanks to Brexit’s pound dive

A model for May's 'shared society' is suffering thanks to her EU policy


For all the PM’s efforts to plug her ‘shared society’ rebrand this week, her mental health policies and the NHS crisis prove the only thing ‘shared’ in this society is poor governance and the burden of private sector failure. (See: the financial crash.)

Meanwhile, the blame is apparently to be ‘shared’ only by subordinates like NHS England chief Simon Stevens and any diplomat who dares tell the truth about our prospects in Brexit negotiations.

And of course, the governor of the Bank of England’s less gloomy forecasts can be held up as an admission he was wrong about Brexit, rather than a vindication of his rescue package. May’s team shares the glory, ‘enemies of the people’ share the scorn.

There are other ways to run a country which, contrary to what we often hear, would not mean Britain turning into Venezuela. Take an example from the news today. Retail firm John Lewis is a profitable business which also happens to be owned by its employees as a co-op.

Every year the company dishes out a bonus – but unlike with so many businesses, this one shared between its workers. According to a Press Association report today, last year’s shared bonus ran to £145 million, or around £1,585 for each of its 91,500 employees.

Workers being awarded for a company making profit? That’s a concrete example of a business-friendly ‘shared society’ of the kind a conservative like Theresa May might seek to build.

But there’s a snag. As the PA reports, while John Lewis (which also owns Waitrose) saw gross sales rise nearly 5 per cent over Christmas against last year, the company has warned staff bonuses will be ‘significantly lower’ this year – thanks to Brexit.

John Lewis Partnership chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield said:

“although we expect to report profits up on last year, trading profit is under pressure.

“This reflects the greater changes taking place across the retail sector. We expect those to quicken, especially in the next 12 months as the effects of weaker sterling feed through.”

Lest we forget, the pound has been at record lows since we ‘took back control’ in June and voted to leave the EU.

So a model for May’s ‘shared society’ like John Lewis is prevented from sharing its profits with its ‘just about managing’ workers by the very phenomenon she campaigned against, but jumped in front of so she could grab the keys to Number 10.

(Not that she’s willing to take responsibility – that great Tory virtue – over this one either. When asked if her tough Brexit talk on Sunday had pushed sterling down to its lowest level since October on Monday, May took a page out of Donald Trump’s book and blamed the media.)

If only the irony was at her expense alone, the rest of us might be able to ‘share’ a laugh about it.

Adam Barnett is staff writer for Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBarnett13 

See: Theresa May’s mental health ‘revolution’ has a money-shaped hole

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