May 15, 2017, 9:30 p.m.
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Jeremy Corbyn will on Tuesday claim that the Conservatives are still the “nasty party”, despite Theresa May’s promise to improve workers’ rights if she wins next month’s election. The prime minister on Monday made a bold pitch for Labour voters, promising to retain all EU workers’ rights after Brexit and to introduce new ones, including the right to up to a year’s unpaid leave to care for a relative.
But, launching his party’s manifesto on Tuesday, the Labour leader will accuse the Conservatives of running Britain for the rich, while the majority struggle to make ends meet.
“The record proves one thing: the Tories are still the nasty party. The party of prejudice, the party of the rich, the party of the tight-fisted and the mean-spirited,” he will say.
Ms May told the Conservative party conference in 2002 that their base was too narrow and that they had become known as the “nasty party”. But she promised on Monday to oversee the greatest-ever expansion of workers’ rights under a Conservative government.
She pledged to increase the national living wage in line with median earnings, to retain all EU protections for workers after Brexit and to introduce new safeguards for workers in the so-called “gig economy”. Under a scheme based on the system prevailing in Ireland, workers will be allowed to take up to a year’s unpaid leave to care for a relative. There would be statutory paid leave for parents of a child who has died, and all public companies will be required to have a workers’ representative on the board.
Trade Union Congress general secretary Frances O’Grady gave the proposals a cautious welcome, although she said more details were needed.
“Working people have a right to know these details before they cast their votes. And while it’s good to see the PM reaffirm her pledge to protect existing rights at work, she needs to ensure that British workers don’t miss out on future EU rights too,” she said.
Employers’ groups were more critical, with the British Chambers of Commerce warning that the proposals could burden firms with more regulation and bureaucratic obligations.
“We will be watching closely as more detail emerges on these proposals, to ensure that they do not give rise to expensive new obligations or unintended consequences – especially for the hundreds of thousands of civic-minded businesses who already do everything in their power to engage, support, train and reward their workforce,” the group said.
Tuesday’s launch of Labour’s manifesto will be more low-key than usual because most of its contents were leaked last week. But Mr Corbyn will use the occasion to highlight the contrast between Labour’s approach and that of the Conservatives.
“It’s a programme that will reverse our national priorities to put the interests of the many first. It will change our country while managing within our means. And it will lead us through Brexit while putting the preservation of jobs first,” he will say.
“This is a programme of hope. The Tory campaign, by contrast, is built on one word: fear.”