Tom Goodenough

What the papers say: Theresa May’s ‘betrayal’ of workers

What the papers say: Theresa May's 'betrayal' of workers
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Theresa May’s decision to row back on her pledge to put workers on company boards receives a mixed reception in the papers today. The Sun and the FT are among those to say it’s good that the PM has opted to change her mind. But the Guardian isn’t happy: calling the PM’s u-turn a ‘betrayal’. Here’s what the newspaper editorials are saying this morning:

The Sun heaps praise on Theresa May for her change in thinking about making companies have representatives of workers on their boards - a move it describes as ‘hasty and aggressive’. It says the PM is right to back down from an idea that would have been a ‘godsend only to the unions’. But while the Sun says binning this policy is a good move, it calls on businesses - and the CBI - to listen up to what the PM has to say about the ‘just managing’ class. ‘The decent treatment of staff has been overlooked by some firms for too long,’ the paper concludes.

The Daily Telegraph says Theresa May’s speech to the CBI yesterday makes it clear that she understands the need to reassure businesses thatBritain’s pro-enterprise climate will not only be maintained, but strengthened’ in the wake of Brexit. The paper says that her commitment to keep low business taxes is a welcome gesture, and it says Philip Hammond should stick to the target set by his predecessor, George Osborne, in reducing corporation tax down to 15 per cent. The paper goes on to say that while it’s understandable the PM would want to reach out to those parts of the electorate who have been ‘left behind’, it’s crucial to balance this perspective with not putting businesses off. It says that, after Brexit, it’s vital that caps on bonuses and corporate pay disappear - in order to allow post-Brexit Britain to compete with other countries around the world.

But the Guardian is not happy with the Prime Minister - calling her ‘u-turn’ on workers’ representation a ‘betrayal’. The paper says that the ‘cynics were right’ about Theresa May and that the PM ‘has missed a big chance to build stronger companies by boardroom diversity’. The paper says that Britain is in danger of falling behind other EU countries in ensuring worker representation on boards; it suggests that ‘almost the only European countries as dismissive of a workers’ voice as the UK are the new Baltic democracies’. But instead of pressing ahead with reforms which could have helped workers - and companies - the PM has ditched an ‘important strand of (her) version of soon as the CBI said ‘boo’’.

Not so, says the FT, which insists Theresa May is ‘moving in the right direction’. In its editorial, the paper says her latest comments vowing not to force companies to represent workers on their boards marks a ‘welcome retreat’. It says that in the era of Brexit, there is enough uncertainty in the air without the PM signalling that the government isn’t on the side of businesses. The paper says that Theresa May’s remarks show a ‘recalibration’. But it goes on to say that the hard work isn’t over yet. Instead, the FT says, it’s time to offer more clarity ‘on free movement of labour and trade with the EU’ - in order to ‘offer the certainty which business requires’ in the wake of Brexit.

Meanwhile, all eyes tomorrow will be on Philip Hammond as he makes his Autumn Statement. But the Times says it’s time to ditch the tradition of this ‘set piece’. Instead, the paper says, ‘for all the news it generates, the autumn statement achieves little’. It says the purpose of the Autumn Statement has often been ’hard to disentangle’ and the ‘tweaks in taxation’ that most chancellors seem to announce do little good. The chancellor should simplify things, the paper suggests, and ‘sweeping away an occasion that has more to do with politics than sound economic management' would be a good place to start.