Truss comment that British workers lack “graft” a “total disgrace”, Cooper says

Yvette Cooper has declared that comments made by Liz Truss that British workers lack “skill and application” and need to show “more graft” are a “total disgrace” and an “insult” to people struggling with rising prices and energy bills.

In a Sky News interview this morning, the Shadow Home Secretary commented on remarks made by the Conservative leadership candidate while serving as a Treasury minister two years ago – revealed in a recording leaked to The Guardian on Tuesday.

In the audio clip, the favourite to replace Boris Johnson as Prime Minister can be heard saying: “British workers produce less per hour and that’s a combination of kind of skill and application… What needs to happen is more… more graft.”

Cooper branded the comments a “total disgrace”, reminding viewers: “This comes after the proposal she put forward to cut public sector pay in the North and other parts of the country so that teaching assistants or, you know, nurses here in Yorkshire would get paid less than people in London or the South East.”

Truss’ campaign was forced to U-turn on plans to cut civil service pay outside London following widespread criticism of the proposal, including from Conservative backbenchers and the Tory Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen.

Cooper added: “She’s also now just said that people should be working harder… She has absolutely no idea that people are working incredibly hard. There are people who are getting up to go to their shifts right now, watching your programme just before they go to work, working incredibly hard to try and make ends meet.”

She highlighted that workers across the country are “facing these nightmare inflation figures, these soaring energy bills and doing their best to keep everything together” and described Truss’ comments as an “insult”.

The Shadow Home Secretary also said the remarks show that the Conservative leadership candidate “does not understand working people right across the country” and argued that it was “deeply wrong of her to say this”.

In the leaked recording, Truss began by saying: “I once wrote a book about this which got mischaracterised – British workers produce less per hour than and that’s a combination of kind of skill and application.”

She went on: “If you look at productivity, it’s very, very different in London from the rest of the country. But basically … this has been a historical fact for decades. Essentially it’s partly a mindset and attitude thing, I think. It’s working culture, basically. If you go to China it’s quite different, I can assure you.”

The minister, who at the time had close oversight of public spending, added: “There’s a fundamental issue of British working culture. 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.

“There’s a slight thing in Britain about wanting the easy answers. That’s my reflection on the election and what’s gone before it, and the referendum – we say it’s all Europe that’s causing these huge problems … it’s all these migrants causing these problems. But actually what needs to happen is more … more graft. It’s not a popular message.”

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