Cure for insomnia, anyone? For the most part Matthew Taylor’s review on employment practices, released last Tuesday, is hard to beat: a concentrated congeries of cliché and Blairite waffle (a free sample: “Government should use its convening power to bring together employers and the education sector to develop a consistent strategic approach to employability and lifelong learning”).

Therein, however, lies a Tory opportunity, if they want to take it. Within a week or two Theresa May should announce that the Government has not only read the review, but wants to go one better on workers’ rights. Forget sillinesses like the legally-mandated “workers’ voice” (i.e. trade union meddling) in more and more companies: this can safely go down the pan, since no-one outside Momentum, the Guardian and the staff-room at Bog Lane Primary gives a monkey’s. Instead, there are four steps that will benefit individual workers’ everyday lives, get the Conservatives known as the party of the little man on the new estate outside Nottingham or in the bedsit in Brighton, and won’t harm the economy.

First, learn from the excellent Frank Field and legislatively clobber bogus self-employment. Anyone over whose activities an employer has substantial control, even if they do provide their own delivery van, should have a right to demand to be treated as employed. This isn’t an unconservative measure. Morphing those who work as an integral part of your business into soi-disant freelancers with the sole aim of getting all the benefits of being an employer with none of the responsibilities is a tactic practised by charlatans and second-rate pen-pushers who understand nothing of the businesses they run apart from the words “cut costs”. Conservatives need to push employers to do better than that, particularly once Brexit cuts off the supply of cheap Eastern Europeans who are so glad of any job that they won’t complain.

Secondly, zero hours. True, the CBI (you remember, those enthusiasts for the euro, the EU, HS2 and all the other forms of corporatism that have turned out so successfully) said that this was a vital feature of the flexible UK labour market. But you shouldn’t be so sure. Genuine temporary requirements can be handled by agency workers. Elsewhere, why not a modest minimum hours requirement for any contract of employment with a business: say eight hours in any two-week period, to be paid whether taken up or not? No business is likely genuinely to need less (it’s equivalent to the half-day-a-week receptionist, book-keeper, or barista).

Furthermore, like pretend self-employment, treating one’s workers like cabs on a taxi-rank is not the kind of practice that the Conservative Party ought to condone if it wants to be seen as the party of the hard worker and not the self-satisfied spiv who has the ear of the Minister. Indeed, there would be nothing unconservative if one was to go further and encourage yet more old-fashioned employment and longer contracted hours by saying that while agreed hours should attract the minimum wage, those over and above that should attract a premium of, say, 10 per cent.

Thirdly, there is scope for a high-profile move that would both clip the wings of the unions and benefit individual workers. In the UK, we often forget that a trade union, once given the power to negotiate in a workplace, can agree not only to improve but to cut back the benefits of the employees they represent. For example, they can, and not infrequently do, cut a deal in good socialist fashion imposing a pay cut on management or successful senior staff in order to fund a rise for other categories of worker with sharper elbows and more vocal support. Many other European countries do not allow this: why not so provide in England, secure in the knowledge that trade unions do not have a vote but middle management emphatically does?

Fourthly, what about something to please both the Sun reader and the social media enthusiast? Employers increasingly seek to control what workers can say outside the workplace (think the oh-so-politically-correct housing association that seeks contractually to prevent its employees expressing views on social media about local politics, or gay marriage, or whatever). This is much resented, but at present there is no specific protection for an employee’s right to say what he thinks in his own time on his own Facebook page. There should be: a specific protection for all lawful views expressed in a context that makes it clear they are not expressed on behalf of the employer and cannot directly undermine the employer’s business would not only be a blow for free speech, but a highly popular move (and one that would leave Jezza scratching his little beard wondering what to criticise).

There’s even a nice anniversary here. Exactly 150 years ago in 1867, Tory premier Lord Derby stylishly whipped away the Liberals’ political togs when he introduced and passed the Second Reform Act, essentially forestalling the inevitable by granting manhood suffrage in the towns. Of the next 38 years, 23 saw Conservative administrations. If Theresa May plays her cards right, she may have a similar opportunity now.


  1. Orwell’s novel ‘1984’ was supposed to be fiction not to used as a template.

    Employers increasingly seek to control what workers can say outside the
    workplace (think the oh-so-politically-correct housing association that
    seeks contractually to prevent its employees expressing views on social
    media about local politics, or gay marriage, or whatever).

    A monstrous impairment forcibly imposed on employees, why yes that’s precisely the pen into which Mrs. May wishes to drive us all.

    Honestly Mr. Tettenborn, we are all guilty of fantasizing “what the Tories could do!”

    And yet, the tories are transfixed and owned by TPTB and in turn run through Brussels with hands on levers wielded by Berlin. They purposefully chose may, dave had to go and may was the ‘plan B option’ in case the referendum was lost.

    They chose well, inevitably and probably not before time the tories are dying a death.

    Though, what should really animate all patriotic Brits and lovers of democracy is what is happening not in Westminster but in the wider country, where Unite/Momentum and the whole gamut from Common Purpose to the quangocracy, Metropolitan councils, soros funded NGOs, charidees, are ganging up on the British people who voted in good [though very misplaced] faith – to leave the EU.

    From a great height, UK democracy is being pi88ed on and as the forces of the Fascist extremist left make merry. If there was such a thing as a UK conservative party – that would and massively be concentrating their minds, or it should be.

  2. I think unpaid internships should be made illegal. In principle there is nothing wrong with them.

    But in practice they have just become a vehicle for the sons and daughters of the wealthy establishment elites to scoop up the ultimately lucrative careers and positions.
    Especially for the elites that live London and the home countries. In effect unpaid internships exclude poor working class and middle class kids from opportunities in the MSM, politics and the professions..
    Its one of the reasons social mobility is at an all time low (a subject the media largely ignores).

    • Unpaid internship already are illegal, and every time they have been challenged in the courts the employers have been forced to pay the minimum wage. It is now impossible to enter politics without being wealthy now, for either the Tories or Labour. Take David Cameron who left Oxford with his PPE degree and worked in London unpaid as a researcher for two years before getting a paid position as a SPAD. He was supported allegedly by a phone call from some staffer at Buckingham Palace.
      Entrance to the Labour party runs along similar lines meaning only the very wealthy and privileged such as Millipede or Corbyn can get to the top.

      • I agree with your points.
        I did not realise that they were already illegal. That said, as there are over 20,000 unpaid interns at any time in the UK maybe the law needs to be actively enforced by the establishment?
        But, as I think we both make clear, this wont happen as the establishment ( and their families) are actually the main beneficiary.

      • Another point is that politics can be very risky as a career, which is how politicians tend to view it. So those who have a financial cushion to land on should their political career be cut short find it a lot easier to enter politics than those who are on an unspectacular income and have children to support and a mortgage to pay.

        A case in point was Margaret `Thatcher whose political career was made possible by the fact that Denis was a main board director of a major company. The Thatchers were therefore never likely to be short of the readies,whatever Margaret did.

      • Yes, his family money, Old Etonian bckground and social contacts did him no harm.

        A lot of conservatives voted for him for snob reasons,

        It was noticeable that he surrounded himself with cronies from his personal life whilst in office.

  3. Theresa (Dis)May and her band haven’t got a clue what to do, and only appear to have a single motivation – keeping the already rich, rich. There is nothing else. No policies, no politics, that’s it and that’s why it matters not one jot to the party of the wealthy whether society goes to hell in a handcart, so long as they can cling onto their largely unearned and largely undeserved wealth.

    And so we see (Dis)May acquiescing to every Labour demand such as the suspension of an MP for failing to use new speak, and running round like a headless chicken over the demands of Grenfell bandwagon jumpers.
    Yet when it comes to allowing any lifting of fiscal controls she can manage to stand firm because it would likely affect the rich so it isn’t going to happen.
    Labour have a big push on at the moment, and all their activists in councils, and the public sector, such as teachers are moaning about so called austerity, which has never even seen anything close to austerity.
    If the Tories had anything about them they would be quickly pointing out the effects of Socialism in Greece, and what real Austerity looks like, presenting it to the British people as the only logical outcome if they elect Corbyn, yet (Dis)May is so wholly & utterly inept that she will allow the lie to take root in peoples minds that the Tories are withholding spending so that they can give their rich friends tax cuts.
    Labour are saying that the Tories have cut the top rate of tax while the Tories sit their like the Mona Lisa with a silly grin on their faces saying nothing to counter it. They could be telling the people that before he left office, Brown knowing he was going to lose cynically cut the PMs salary, and raised the highest tax band to 45%, all the Tories did was to put it back to where it was when Labour were in power.

    Jeremy Corbyn IS going to win the next election, not because he deserves to, or because he has better policies or any other reason, but because the Tories are so utterly complacent and useless, ignorant arrogant and undeserving of power. They are probably as said elsewhere unreformable and need to cease as a political party.

  4. Latest polling in the Times proves just how poorly (Dis)May is performing as PM

    The Times have published their first YouGov poll since the general election. Topline figures are CON 38%, LAB 46%, LDEM 6%. This is the largest Labour lead we’ve seen in any poll since the election, though the vast majority of polls have shown them ahead. Fieldwork was yesterday and today.

    It followed this one

    ICM have resumed polling for the Guardian. Topline figures for their first post-election poll are CON 41%(-3), LAB 43%(+2), LDEM 7%(-1), UKIP 3%(+1) – changes are from the election result.

    Showing that the Tory deficit is getting worse. I believe that the Tories will allow (Dis)May to handle Brexit and if it all goes wrong – and it inevitably won’t be perfect May will carry the can and resign. Alas it will be far too late and we can all look forward to 5 years of momentum wrecking the country and potential civil war as a result.
    All because of weak inept leadership amongst the Tories.

  5. Listening to my favourite commercial radio station one of the advertisements which seems to be constantly aired is “Don’t forget the Work Place Pension”, which now has to be supplied even if you have just one employee. I would suggest that if there is anything that will discourage a “one man band” from taking on permanent staff is this sort of extra complication. Far easier to have a part time van driver, call him self-employed and make him responsible for his own tax and pension.

  6. As an employer, I tend to use “self employment” even over “zero hours”, wherever possible. You don’t have to pay for anything other than the work done. If they beome ill they get nothing, if they get pregnant, it costs me nothing, if their child is sick it is their problem to get the job done.

    As you can perhaps gather, I am not entirely happy having to work this way.

    The Germans on the other hand, have some of the strictist and most restrictive labour laws.

    Also one of the most successful economies.

    • Phil

      The Germans also cheat by applying lower employment standards for southern European workers – hence the mysterious productivity gap with the rest of the West.

  7. The reluctance of entrepreneurs to employ anyone they don’t desperately need arises through the eagerness of governments of every hue to control and tax to the limit, and then beyond. The government prints the money. It is natural that it regards it as its money, not the citizen’s. This is why other forms of money/value have emerged beyond any government’s immediate control, bitcoin for one.

    The possession of real and portable value is anathema to government. It gives the citizen a degree of liberty to avoid the state’s arm and beady eye. The US Second Amendment affirmed the citizen’s right to bear arms to protect himself against his own government, which the founders had seen become necessary in 1776.

    The native inhabitants of this country are not the rapacious Gradgrinds that socialists and now Tory politicians would have you believe. But along with the cheese in the mousetrap, the gospel of saving the workers from the rapacious employers, comes the steel cage of common purpose jobsworth Jacks-in-office/council chambers, controlling every aspect of life, for everyone.

  8. Here here. What is clear round here is that it is the bigger companies that use these sorts of contractual tricks. I can understand that the comfortably off don’t realise this but huge swathes of the productive economy, like construction, are rife with uncertain “contracts”. Locally this drives wider problems, such as having the “single mother” claim benefits (crucially housing benefit) while the more fitful (though often well paid when getting “hours”) income of the officially invisible “partner” pays for the telly, car, holidays etc. Union membership outside public services is low, undercutting them by sorting out T&Cs would be a brilliant move. Of course the other issue is housing and frankly creating some “new towns” to manage the supply of decent housing would be genius.
    For the socially conservative (which is particularly the “lower” socio-economic groups) life is in fact filled with barriers and perverse incentives not to fulfil the majority aspriration to settle have children “nice” house , decent schools, family holiday etc. As has so often been pointed on TCW these things are still what the better off achieve.
    Secret “cohabiting” to fool the welfare system is endemic. Of course one should abhore the deceit (which includes the Benefits agency who know they simply couldn’t cope with dealing with every suspect case) But also consider the madness of a system that actively advantages dishonesty and reinforces fragility, rather that supports those who want to form a pair and family and live a “normal life”.
    For me its simple, look at policies that make “doing the right thing” the obviously best option. “gig” economies, inflated asset prices, unwieldy welfare all the stuff that the “anywheres” generally seem to like. All corrode and undermine the social conservatism of a population that repeatedly tells us it wants to be “somewhere” .

  9. The Taylor review is flawed because it is based on the false premise that Uber (to take the most obvious example) is fundamentally different to what’s went before. However, the reality is that in terms of business structure Uber in the UK is broadly similar to taxi and minicab firms which have existed since Uber founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick was a teenager. Similarly, although analysts and commentators usually regard Uber as sui generis as regards regulation, in actual fact in the UK it’s licensed under legislation which has been on the statute book since as long ago as the 1960s.
    By the same token, as regards Deliveroo et al it should be obvious that for decades boy racer types and lads on mopeds have been delivering takeaway food on a piecework basis, now rebranded as the gig economy.
    What is new is that these are global brands and they’re employing the latest ordering and despatch technology, and to that extent have extended the breadth of the market and its inherent flexibility (ie the positive corollary to the negative ‘gig’ dimension), but at a fundamental level there’s nothing particularly new going on. As regards Uber (again most obviously) most more long standing taxi and minicab firms in the UK are using apps to compliment more traditional booking methods, and most have been using computerised GPS despatch technology for at least a couple of decades, so the latest app-based method is simply augmenting efficiency rather than reinventing the wheel.
    And perhaps the rebranding of casual/piecework is instructive, since fundamental to Uber’s global advance has been its big brand and multi-billion dollar fundraising exercises on Wall Street. So as well as allowing it to use this financial and marketing clout to quickly penetrate new markets, it’s also used this PR muscle to convey the impression that it’s fundamentally something new, so a comms exercise emanating from San Francisco eventually feeds through to the Taylor report treating the whole Uber phenomenon as profoundly different. (Of course, Uber hasn’t portrayed the supposed originality in negative terms, whereas the lefty/trade union perspective has, although both are based on the false premise.)
    Critical too to the gig economy aspect is the more direct regulation and licensing of Uber, and that’s where it gets messier still. As the Daily Mail’s Guy Adams has recently outlined in great detail, Boris Johnson’s attempts to curtail Uber when mayor of London were thwarted by David Cameron’s administration, and there are other accusations of machinations and skullduggery regarding George Osborne’s involvement in Blackrock, which is a major Uber investor.
    So that kind of thing too could influence the government’s response to Taylor, but transparency, straight talking and the simple facts are likely to be in short supply, therefore just cynical and self-serving politics as usual then.

  10. Scrap the “sacred cow” minimum wage.
    All it does is increase unemployment amongst the young, the handicapped, and the relatively lower ranks of workers.

  11. The Conservatives have always been the party for the working man. Lower taxes with a strong economy and the rest falls into place.
    It is Bliar’s greatest achievement, convincing the Tories they were the ‘Nasty Party’, which in turn led to the adoption of centre left Common Purpose claptrap.

  12. It isn’t just that May must go. They are all useless whining losers and they all should go but who can or will be prepared to replace them?

    Corbyn is loathsome but he deserves it all.

    • Corbyn is loathsome. It could be argued that he is at least honest, unlike Blair who is also loathsome. But one could say the same about Stalin and of course Adolph never concealed his intentions either.

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