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Norfolk minister writes book calling UK workers “idlers”

PUBLISHED: 09:34 13 September 2012

South-West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss.

South-West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss.

Archant

A book to be published today, part-written by a Norfolk MP and minister, brands British workers as “among the worst idlers in the world”.

Britain Unchained was authored by South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss, now an education minister, along with four other Conservative MPs, and also argues that British pupils avoid taking difficult subjects in school.

The book aims to compare the UK to other countries across the world which are experiencing stronger economic growth, in order to draw lessons for future policy.

One chapter of the book, entitled Work Ethic, discusses low productivity in Britain and a perception in the UK that foreign immigrants are prepared to work harder.

It begins: “Once they enter the workplace, the British are among the worst idlers in the world. We work among the lowest hours, we retire early and our productivity is poor. Whereas Indian children aspire to be doctors or businessmen, the British are more interested in football and pop music.”

Ms Truss told the Eastern Daily Press yesterday that she was unable to discuss the book since becoming a minister in the recent reshuffle – she won a job in the Department for Education with responsibility for early years schooling.

As well as the British work ethic and the state of public finances when the 2008 crisis struck, the book suggests the country’s education system is fundamentally linked to its current problems and future economic growth.

It highlights how more students in the UK are abandoning maths and sciences in favour of “easier” options.

“Instead of hard choices, students apply for a degree in media or business, which will often allow for the study of easier A-Levels,” the book reads.

“As with US colleges, science A-Levels are more harshly marked than those in media or sociology, the difference being up to a grade. In a culture of equivalence, where all subjects are deemed equal, students make the seemingly rational choice of going for the easier option.”

But the comments have not been welcomed by the Labour party, who have accused Ms Truss of slandering British workers who are struggling to make ends meet during the recession.

The new parliamentary candidate for Norwich North, Jessica Asato, said: “Thousands of shift workers in Norwich who work so hard just to put a meal on the table for their kids will be offended by the claim that they are idle. Liz Truss is merely detracting attention from the true cause of the double dip recession which Britain is now facing; it was made in Downing Street by the Tory-led government and its failed economic plans.

“To blame hard working Britons for being idle is shocking.”

What do you think? Write to EDP Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email EDPletters@archant.co.uk.

joseph.watts@archant.co.uk

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