“More graft,” says Liz Truss.

Could she mean her boss Boris Johnson, enjoying back-to-back holidays just days before he leaves Downing Street? Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, sitting back as rail chaos hits the country, or Jacob Rees-Mogg still searching for that ever elusive “Brexit opportunity”?

No. In these leaked comments from the likely new PM, it’s British workers who apparently lack 'skills and application”. Those same workers who we cheered on the doorsteps during the pandemic, who’ve kept our country going as wages fall and prices soar and in many cases are now struggling to make ends meet despite working full time.

It is disgusting to blame workers for the result of 12 years of Conservative mismanagement of our economy.

This summer I’ve been meeting local trade union reps, postal workers, bus drivers, hospitality, and retail workers to hear their concerns. Time and again they told me they’re working harder than ever but their pay packets keep being squeezed – all as bosses’ bonuses and shareholder pay-outs soar. This can’t go on. Nearly 75% of low-paid workers in a recent USDAW survey said financial worries have affected their mental health with many even missing meals to pay their bills.

Ham & High: MP Catherine West has been meeting with workers and unions over the summerMP Catherine West has been meeting with workers and unions over the summer (Image: PA Archive/PA Images)

Facing such an attack, it’s no surprise that workers are going on strike to secure better pay and conditions on such a large scale this summer. I fully support their right to do so, but they shouldn’t have to.

Where’s the “graft” from the Tory ministers who should be getting round the table to end these strikes? What happened to the employment bill the Tories promised more than 20 times and failed to deliver?

Instead of listening to workers, the Tories have sided with bad bosses, sending the message they can act with impunity by changing the law to make it easier for others to follow P&O’s shameful lead.

The government could bring down inflation and ease the burden on households and businesses right now by adopting Labour’s energy price freeze that would save the average family £1,000 this winter. Is it any wonder that people told me they feel the government doesn’t care when, during the worst cost-of-living crisis for a generation, they’d rather let energy giants make huge profits than help people who’re suffering.

I’ll continue to use the platform which parliament provides me to make the case for fairer workplace practices. It was working people who kept the country fed, cared for, and connected as temperatures soared this summer. They don’t need anyone to tell them about “graft”. They just need a government that understands the meaning of the word itself.

Catherine West is Labour MP for Hornsey and Wood Green.