As the election draws closer Conservative party tanks are lining up on Labour's lawn

Christian May
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Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn On The Campaign Trail In Cardiff
May has picked up Miliband-style policies and rhetoric, albeit with a Tory twist (Source: Getty)

One of the consequences of Labour’s dire poll position and bleak electoral prospects is that it creates an opening for Theresa May to park her tanks on the opposition’s lawn.

From the moment she entered the Conservative leadership race, May picked up Miliband-style policies and rhetoric, albeit with a Tory twist.

She hit out at big business, cosy boardrooms and “the citizens of nowhere” – a thinly-veiled attack on the international elite, many of whom have made London their home.

Read more: Conservatives retain major lead in new poll ahead of snap General Election

There are plenty of Conservatives who wish that May wasn’t quite so keen on this leftward drift. After all, just because Corbyn has abandoned the field there’s no need, the argument goes, to seize his part of the pitch.

Free-marketeers and those more sceptical of the ability of the state to guide industrial decision-making winced when May spoke of putting workers on company boards and interfering in markets.

Yet this is very much the PM’s preferred kind of politics: a belief in the good that government can do and a desire to reshape the corporate world.

Read more: Labour deputy leader warns of "Thatcher-style" Tory landslide

Last week saw a commitment to meddle with the price of energy and today the PM throws the Tory campaign behind the humble worker, with pledges to offer more opportunities for leave, greater protections and more rights at work. Critics in her own party may sigh at the apparent lurch to the left, but this is more about politics than policy.

For example, May wants to offer “a statutory right to request leave for training” but firms would be under no obligation to accept the request or to pay for it if they did.

Read more: Labour’s manifesto policies would turn the UK into an economic basket case

Similarly, a vow to increase representation for workers on boards in fact offers firms the option of creating a “stakeholder advisory panel” instead. In other words, May’s ideas appear to have been tempered by cabinet colleagues and representations from business groups.

There is still a risk that such tinkering adds a bureaucratic burden on firms, particularly small ones, and some of May’s more statist instincts remain alarming, but today’s announcements are largely about expanding the reach of the Tory party and heading off accusations that they’re more interested in bosses than workers.

If she pulls it off, May could hammer the final nail in Corbyn’s coffin.

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