May reaches out to Labour in bid to re­launch her lead­er­ship

PM marks first year in Down­ing Street amid ru­mours of Tory plot to oust her

The Guardian Weekly - - Uk news - Rowena Ma­son

Theresa May has moved to bol­ster her po­si­tion with an in­vi­ta­tion to Labour to help her cre­ate poli­cies for a postBrexit Bri­tain as she at­tempts to quell a Tory plot to re­place her.

On the an­niver­sary of her first week in Down­ing Street and amid talk of a Con­ser­va­tive bid to oust her be­fore the end of the year, the prime min­is­ter sought to draw a line un­der a dis­as­trous elec­tion re­sult that saw her gov­ern­ment lose its ma­jor­ity.

May was due to ar­gue in a speech this week that her “com­mit­ment to change Bri­tain is undimmed”, echo­ing her words from out­side No 10 a year ago, pledg­ing to tackle in­jus­tice and in­equal­ity as she launched a re­port on un­fair em­ploy­ment prac­tices by former Labour ad­viser Matthew Tay­lor.

The speech, seen as an at­tempt to re­launch her fal­ter­ing pre­mier­ship, made an un­usual plea for cross-party work­ing, chal­leng­ing MPs across the spec­trum to “come for­ward with your own views and ideas about how we can tackle these chal­lenges as a coun­try”.

“At this crit­i­cal time in our his­tory, we can ei­ther be timid or we can be bold,” she was ex­pected to say. “We can play it safe or we can strike out with re­newed courage and vigour, mak­ing the case for our ideas and val­ues and chal­leng­ing our op­po­nents to con­trib­ute, not just crit­i­cise … In ev­ery­thing we do, we will act with an un­shak­able sense of pur­pose to build the bet­ter, fairer Bri­tain which we all want to see.”

De­spite hav­ing taken her party back­wards at last month’s elec­tion, May in­sisted her vi­sion for the coun­try is cor­rect, say­ing she is “con­vinced that the path that I set out in that first speech out­side No 10 and upon which we have set our­selves as a gov­ern­ment re­mains the right one”.

Such claims are likely to be viewed with scep­ti­cism by other party lead­ers, given May’s track record over the past year propos­ing an ex­pan­sion of gram­mar schools, an end to free school meals, and means-test­ing the win­ter fuel al­lowance – which were dropped after the elec­tion. She has also failed to pro­ceed with leg­is­la­tion to im­ple­ment rad­i­cal ideas that could have been well­re­ceived by the op­po­si­tion, in­clud­ing a plan to put work­ers on com­pany boards and a cap on en­ergy prices.

Down­ing Street sources said her con­cil­ia­tory tone re­flected prag­ma­tism about the new par­lia­men­tary arith­metic, which gives May a ma­jor­ity only with the sup­port of the North­ern Ire­land-based Demo­cratic Union­ist Party.

The prime min­is­ter will need the sup­port of the Labour front­bench to im­ple­ment Brexit, in­clud­ing the pas­sage of the re­peal bill – which was due to be pub­lished this week – that sets out how EU law will be trans­posed into UK law. But gov­ern­ment sources said she was also open to hear­ing the ideas of MPs from other par­ties about dif­fi­cult do­mes­tic pol­icy, such as the fu­ture of the NHS and so­cial care.

May could also need help from the op­po­si­tion im­ple­ment­ing rec­om­men­da­tions of the Tay­lor re­view, which was ex­pected to rec­om­mend that work­ers in the gig econ­omy should be given pro­tec­tions linked to the min­i­mum wage with­out los­ing the right to set their own hours. It would mean those classed as in­de­pen­dent con­trac­tors such as Uber and De­liv­eroo driv­ers could be re­branded “de­pen­dent con­trac­tors” with rights to be paid the min­i­mum wage for the hours they work.

An­drew Gwynne, Labour cam­paign co­or­di­na­tor and shadow cab­i­net min­is­ter, said: “Theresa May has fi­nally come clean and ac­cepted the gov­ern­ment has com­pletely run out of ideas. As a re­sult they’re hav­ing to beg for pol­icy pro­pos­als from Labour. This is fur­ther ev­i­dence that this gov­ern­ment can no longer run the coun­try.”

May’s re­launch also ap­pears in part to be an at­tempt to see off talk of an im­mi­nent lead­er­ship chal­lenge. How­ever, the ma­jor­ity of Con­ser­va­tive MPs ap­pear to be ex­tremely wary about re­plac­ing May over fears it could prompt an­other gen­eral elec­tion that polls sug­gest Jeremy Cor­byn would win for Labour.

EPA

Chal­lenges … Theresa May wants cross-party sup­port for Tory poli­cies

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