Theresa May could well follow Margaret Thatcher and Gordon Brown as prime ministers who took the lead on employee ownership. Her hustings speech promising to tackle top pay and worker representation is certain to be followed through as it reflects the views of long term advisers who have followed her to no 10. “The people who run big businesses are supposed to be accountable to outsiders,” said Mrs May. “In practice, they are drawn from the same, narrow social and professional circles as the executive team and – as we have seen time and time again – the scrutiny they provide is just not good enough. So if I’m Prime Minister, we’re going to change that system – and we’re going to have not just consumers represented on company boards, but employees as well.”
A strong lead from the top will concentrate minds at Business and the Treasury. At Business, the sideways move of Sajid Javid was a loss since he personally backed employee shareholding, especially at Royal Mail, but the sacking of small business minister Anna Soubry clears the way for a more esop friendly approach. David Gauke has good form as Chief Secretary to the Treasury. The new Treasury minister responsible for HMRC is Jane Ellison, whose many years at John Lewis could well prove beneficial in understanding the sector.