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