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Solomon Hughes Hard Labour with Keir Starmer

KEIR STARMER made a new statement of his principles in a speech this month. Labour’s leadership are worried about criticism that Starmer doesn’t stand for anything, but are also reluctant to actually stand for too much, in case they upset the newspapers, so Starmer announced a new set of vague keywords — “security, prosperity, respect” — as his principles.

But Starmer is consistent on one theme — work should be hard.

In his latest relaunch speech, Starmer said that he was offering a “contract” where: “If we work hard, we should also have a right to job security,” one where “you will be expected to work hard.”

This fits with his last long-winded statement of principles, his 11,000-word Fabian essay from last year. There were very few concrete commitments in that, but it repeatedly talked about how people should get rewards from “hard work.”

The traditional slogan of even the moderate Labour movement was “A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work.” It wasn’t “A fair day’s wage for a hard day’s work.”

Unions and Labour governments spent great effort making work less hard, introducing better conditions and hours. Work can also be rewarding or enjoyable, it might rely on great skill rather than huge effort, or it may be just boring. It doesn’t have to be hard and it can be a very bad sign when it is.

Any union rep will tell you that linking “job security” and “hard work” isn’t that helpful — when bosses unfairly sack people, they often suggest the dismissed didn’t work hard enough.

What Starmer is trying to do is both assert workers should have some better treatment but also embrace some of the reactionary anti-scrounger, anti-shirker, lazy bastards reactionary discourse that became strong during austerity.

This cowardice suggests the rights he will offer workers will be limited unless we get specific commitments from Labour. It also suggests disabled people and other benefit claimants, who were often badly treated by the last Labour government, also need to get very clear statements that they will get better from any future Labour administration.

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