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Tories to pay their way out of fiasco.


COULD a plan to give 200,000 West Midlands workers a pay rise save the Conservative Party? Conservatives think they're on course for a devastating defeat in May 23's European elections.

And some fear the party's divisions and failure to deliver Brexit might ensure they never again win a majority in a general election.

But there are also signs that Conservatives are beginning to think about how to secure their future.

An unofficial leadership contest has begun. Tory politicians like Rory Stewart, the International Development Secretary, and Esther McVey, the former Work and Pensions Secretary, have stated publicly that they want the job.

Others, such as Boris Johnson, Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, are barely bothering to hide their ambitions.

But more importantly, Conservatives are thinking about how to win support from voters who are attracted to the things Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been saying.

An example is the proposal from Chancellor Philip Hammond for a dramatic increase in the minimum wage.

Mr Hammond is reported to be considering increasing the minimum wage to 66% of median earnings. That means it would be PS9.61 an hour in 2020.

Right now, the legal minimum wage for workers aged 25 (known as the National Living Wage) is PS8.21 an hour.

The minimum wage is PS7.70 per hour for 21 to 24 year-olds and PS6.15 for 18 to 20 year-olds.

If the Government increased the minimum wage for everyone currently receiving the National Living Wage, 181,000 people in the West Midlands would get a pay rise.

And if the increase also applied to younger workers, another 33,000 would benefit.

It's a radical plan and it would probably cost some jobs (just like Labour's proposal to increase the minimum wage to PS10), because some low-paid positions would simply vanish.

But it would go some way to answering the charge levied by Labour - that for many people today, work doesn't pay. Or, at least, it doesn't allow you to live with a reasonable degree of security.

Wages aren't always enough to live on. It's still true that you're far more likely to live in poverty if you don't work, but it's possible to work extremely hard and be poor.

This fosters a sense of injustice, particularly among younger voters who may be most affected.

Conservatives like to portray themselves as the party of working people, so why shouldn't they ensure that work pays? But the proposed idea is also a sign of the influence Mr Corbyn is having on British politics.

Hiking up the minimum wage would once have been considered a left-wing idea.

PSBut some ideas of the left are becoming increasingly mainstream.

"And smarter Tories are realising they need to change with the times.


| Low-paid workers could get a boost

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Title Annotation:News; Opinion; Columns
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:May 12, 2019
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