Liz Truss has suggested that workers in the UK lack the “graft” of rivals in other countries, a leaked recording has revealed.
In the recording, Truss also hinted at a belief that workers outside London lacked the “mindset and attitude” to be as productive as those in the UK’s capital city.
She was speaking in her capacity as chief secretary to the Treasury when she talked about a combination of “skill and application” that led to British workers producing less per hour than elsewhere.
She 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.”
At a hustings in Darlington last week, she took repeated shots at journalists, blaming the press for Boris Johnson’s downfall.
She said: “I believe in Britain, unlike some of the media who choose to talk our country down.”
Two days later, at the hustings for Tory members in Cheltenham, she said that as prime minister she would “challenge those who try to talk our country down” and imbue “a bit more respect for ourselves and our values”.
She said: “I will also challenge those who try to talk our country down; who say our best days are behind us, that somehow we should be ashamed of our history, that somehow we should be kowtowing to other countries around the world.
“Quite the opposite is true. I travel the world and I know that people have huge respect for the United Kingdom and what we offer.
“What we need is a bit more respect for ourselves and our values, and we need to make sure that we don’t allow the doom-mongers to talk us into a negative cycle.”
Labour’s shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said: “Working people are the backbone of our economy and our public services.
“They put in £27 billion of unpaid overtime last year. Insulting working people won’t shift the responsibility for 12 years of Tory economic failure away from ministers like Liz Truss.”
It set out proposals to strip back regulation and encourage innovation, but caused controversy with a claim that British workers are “among the worst idlers in the world”.
Truss has claimed Raab, a supporter of leadership rival Rishi Sunak, wrote the offending chapter.
On her leaked comments, Truss told another hustings in Perth on Tuesday: “The point that I’ve always made is what we need in this country is more productivity across the country and we need more economic growth.”