Liz Truss, the Tory leadership frontrunner, has said British workers needed “more graft” and suggested they lacked the “skill and application” of workers from other countries, a leaked audio recording has revealed.
The foreign secretary also appeared to blame disparities between London and the rest of the UK partly on “a mindset or attitude thing”, with the Conservative former cabinet minister Sajid Javid saying on Wednesday that British workers “are among the hardest-working in the world ”.
Six Guardian readers share their reaction to Truss’s remarks.
‘It’s a despicable stance’
“It is a despicable stance, that in reality is a lie. I spent 50 years working in the industry before retiring. I gave it my all, working very hard every day. I seldom had enough money to get by. Struggling with any bills that came in. Now retired with a state pension of £7,000 and a work pension of £7,000 the struggle continues and I am still despised by our government and their ilk. Truss or Sunak will never be the leader of this country in my eyes and will never have my respect.” George, 71, a retired factory worker, Clydebank, Scotland
‘I would agree that French workers are more productive’
“These comments are absolutely offensive and show a lack of knowledge about the G7 countries. Having lived in France for the last five years and recently returned to the UK, I believe that British workers are highly skilled, and work longer hours than their European counterparts. I live in the north, and workers here have a can-do attitude, though they would welcome more funding for better transport and training. But British society doesn’t really value people with non-academic skills.
“I would agree that French workers are more productive, but that’s because they work shorter hours, have more bank holidays and annual leave, have better health care and generally more freedom. It’s not because UK workers need to graft more or have bad attitudes, suggesting that it is simplistic and naive. If anything, it’s about the attitude of people like Liz Truss, who perhaps needs to become more skilled and graft harder to gain more insight into how the majority of people in this country live.” Sharon Agar, 61, academic in sociology Shipley
‘My social care colleagues work double our contracted hours to keep services running’
“Myself and many of my social care colleagues work double our contracted hours just to keep services running and people supported. Liz Truss typifies the unpleasant state of mind of the Tory party today. Her suggestion from Ella that we imagine disparities is totally insulting and in stark denial of an obvious truth. I’ve lived in the south and infrastructure and services are far superior to what we have in yorkshire. And let’s not forget that Sunak boasted about stripping funds from deprived areas and diverting them to wealthy ones.” Billy King, 58, social care worker, Maltby, South Yorkshire
‘London attracts individuals who are willing to apply “graft”’
“London, with its promise of wealth, professional fulfillment and socio-cultural glamor does attract, from across the UK and beyond, the kind of individuals who are capable and willing to apply ‘graft’ and ‘skill and application’ at a higher level than the average person. It should be noted that this ‘London mindset’ can also be partly attributed to social desperation, including extortionate rents, as well as personal drive.”
“Where I feel my agreement with Truss ends is her apparent belief that such mindsets/attitudes should be propagated or even mandated across the entirety of British society. Everyone should be able to pursue happiness, but that’s not the same as pursuing jobs in the City.” Ciaran Kovach, 26, teacher, London
‘We work incredibly hard for a living’
“I live and work in the north-east, and the vast majority of people I know have a fantastic attitude and mindset. Productivity is seen as higher in London due to circumstances like more international firms … the way [Truss] said it, was like people outside London don’t work as hard or aren’t as dedicated, which is completely untrue.
“I find it deeply offensive to say we need more graft, especially at a time of high inflation, low wage increases and a general cost of living crisis. I’m a civil servant, and I can say that despite comments like this or previous comments focusing on the civil service, we work incredibly hard for a living. The Conservatives are also constantly saying how great the economy is – how can that be true if workers are all really lazy?” Daniel, 27, civil servant, north-east
‘These remarks show Truss has no idea what the realities of working here are like’
“This kind of broad brush comment is made by someone with a very superficial grasp on the whole experience of employment in the UK. The disparity that she needs addressing is between her myopic view of what constitutes ‘work’, which is shaped by vacuous capitalist rhetoric, and reality.
“How does Truss think it’s possible to motivate a workforce if they feel disrespected, undervalued and underpaid? Many people are working multiple jobs and extended hours just to pay their bills. The Tory party has consistently sought to undermine employment rights and deny pay rises that are in line with the cost of living. I think Truss would intend to continue naively with that trend.” Catherine Dornan, 68, an artist and voluntary worker, Llandrindod Wells, Wales
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism