Theresa May will not be more radical than Ed Miliband after all

Written by David Singleton on 21 November 2016 in Diary

The PM has now lost interest in putting workers on company boards.

Theresa May made an audacious bid for the centre ground in her first big speech as prime minister.

Employing language that echoed Ed Miliband, she stood up to energy companies and attacked "the privileged few".

In her speech during the Conservative leadership contest in the summer May also sounded even more radical than Labour’s 2015 manifesto when she pledged: "We’re going to have not just consumers represented on company boards, but employees as well."

Plans to force firms to put employees in the boardroom were also endorsed by May throughout her Tory leadership campaign. But today the prime minister made it clear that she was was jettisoning them.

Speaking to the Confederation of British Industry’s annual conference, she said:

"While it is important that the voices of workers and consumers should be represented, I can categorically tell you that this is not about mandating works councils, or the direct appointment of workers or trade union representatives on boards.

"Some companies may find that these models work best for them – but there are other routes that use existing Board structures, complemented or supplemented by advisory councils or panels, to ensure all those with a stake in the company are properly represented. It will be a question of finding the model that works."

After backing away from her workers-on-boards proposal, the prime minister faced immediate criticism from Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress. She tweeted: “If Mrs May says Brexit means Brexit, surely workers on boards means workers on boards?”

Labour also seized on the u-turn with shadow business secretary Clive Lewis saying: "The prime minister announced she is ditching her flagship policy to put workers on company boards - just one month after committing to it. Tory promises don’t last until Christmas."

During his Labour leadership, Miliband did not go quite as far as pledging to force all firms to put employees in the boardroom. But in its 2015 manifesto, Labour did pledge to "make sure employees have a voice when executive pay is set by requiring employee representation on remuneration committees" and to "give football fans a voice in club boardrooms".


Picture by: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire/PA Images

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