Written by Amy Beecham

After the performative allyship of clapping for key workers, is anyone surprised that Liz Truss thinks British workers need “more graft”? writes Stylist’s Amy Beecham.

Liz Truss has drawn mass criticism after a recording of her describing how “British workers needed more graft” was shared this week as the foreign secretary continues her campaign to become the next prime minister on 5 September.

Inleaked audio obtained and published by The Guardian, Truss appeared to suggest that Britons lacked the “skill and application” of foreign nationals and that “productivity in London was very very different from the rest of the country”.

“There’s a fundamental issue of British working culture,” Truss can be heard saying. “Essentially, if we’re going to be a richer country and a more prosperous country, that needs to change. But I don’t think people are that keen to change that.”

The comments were made when Truss was the chief secretary to the Treasury, a post she held until 2019, with Truss also saying that productivity was “very, very different in London from the rest of the country”, claiming this was “partly a mindset and attitude thing.”

In response to the recordings, Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, said: “With wages shrinking thanks to Tory failure to bring inflation under control and years of lacklustre growth, it’s grossly offensive for Liz Truss to effectively brand British workers lazy. 

“Workers across the country are working all hours to keep a roof over their heads, put food on the table and provide for their families. Liz Truss should be helping working people to cope with this cost of living crisis… not peddling this offensive nonsense.”

“It takes some brass neck to say British workers need ‘more graft’ when you’ve served in a government that hasn’t done its day job for months,” tweeted Labour MP Lisa Nandy. “Not content with thinking nurses in the north are worth less, apparently Liz Truss thinks Brits are all lazy too.”

When asked about the comments by the audience at a Tory leadership event on Tuesday (16 August), Truss did not deny them and said productivity needed to improve. “I don’t know what you’re quoting there,” Truss responded to questioning. “But the point that I’ve always made is that what we need in this country is more productivity across the country and we need more economic growth.”

However, the recording angered many people online, who highlighted that MPs like Truss are have the potential to be granted up to 13 weeks of holiday per year.

“Liz Truss says workers in this country need ‘more graft’. What an insult to the nurses and cleaners and firefighters and posties that they cynically clapped. Britain is full of grafters at the bottom – and grifters at the top,” shared campaign group Enough Is Enough.

One viral tweet compared her comments to pictures of prime minister Boris Johnson currently on holiday and MP Jacob Rees-Mogg seemingly asleep in parliament.

The comments were also linked to a controversial passage about British workers being among the “worst idlers in the world” in the book Britannia Unchained, which Truss co-authored in 2012 alongside MPs including Priti Patel and Dominic Raab. However, in the first televised head-to-head Tory leadership debate last month, Truss claimed she had not written the offending chapter and blamed her fellow author Raab instead.

Amid a cost of living crisis, where 15% of households that use foodbanks are actually employed and people working more than 54 hours a week are at major risk of dying from overwork, it’s a slap in the face to millions of workers to suggest that they need to just dig a little deeper and give a bit more.

Yet after the performative allyship of clapping for key workers, yet denying them pay rises in line with inflation,the comments come as a huge but unsurprising disappointment and insult to the very people Truss claims she will be representing.

Images: Getty

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