Has Theresa May already veered too far left for the conservative press?

The Sun and the Times have words of warning for the PM


The workers’ right pledges that Theresa May unveiled yesterday may seem strikingly unambitious — how many working people can afford to take a year off unpaid? — but as far as the right-wing press is concerned, it seems she has already drifted too far towards socialism.

This morning’s Sun welcomes the PM’s workers’ rights ‘revolution’, arguing that ‘most of the new protections she is promising make sound sense and are already in place at many decent firms.’

But the editors follow up with several notes of caution:

“We’re not fans of forcing businesses to have workers in boardrooms — which would give unions more power — so it’s good to see her compromise on that.”

This is interesting, since senior Tories have insisted that May has not backtracked on her pledge to put workers on boards, and the PM herself has reiterated her commitment to the policy. There’s a steely note of warning, then, in the Sun’s portrayal of a compromise that has not yet occurred.

It’s clear that the paper is reluctant to overtly slam an extremely popular Tory prime minister, but that they want her to know that their support cannot be taken for granted:

“A word of caution, too. It’s all very well nicking the centre-left’s best ideas. The PM also needs unmistakably Tory ones. That means shrinking the state and the welfare bill . . . and lower taxes for all.”

The Times takes an even sterner line on May’s shift towards Blairism, grumbling that ‘Britain may be about to add workplace bureaucracy and costs just as it prepares to leave an over-regulated European labour market.’

The editors also caution that May has not hit upon a risk-free strategy to win Labour votes:

“By adding to the regulatory burden for employers the prime minister is taking their votes for granted, and this group includes millions of small business owners as well as chief executives. More particularly, she is laying herself open to the charge of putting party politics before what is right for the economy at a time when Brexit threatens economic growth.”

It is ludicrous to suggest that May’s policies present a threat to growth. Under-regulation has proved a vastly greater threat to the British economy than over-regulation in the last decade. And right now, the single greatest threat to the economy is wage stagnation, since underpaid workers cannot fuel the economy through consumption.

And whatever the Sun suggests, public spending has already been slashed beyond reason — as crises in the NHS and social care show — and the anti-tax agenda has reached the point of farce.

May’s proposals do not go far enough to remedy these ills, but to suggest they go to far is absurd.

However, it does raise an interesting question for the PM, who clearly thinks her honeymoon can go on forever. A landslide victory requires holding together a vast electoral coalition. And today’s papers suggest that the ties that bind her supporters are already beginning to fray.

Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin is editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter.

See: Theresa May is promising action on workers’ rights – should trade unions take her at her word?

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