I’ve been irritated for some time about the constant reference amongst Coalition politicians to ‘hard-working people’. There’s been something quite forced and contrived about it. It’s as though they’re being given bonuses on the back of mentioning it. Even Boris has the regional version on repeat. It’s stuck very stubbornly. Unlike ‘the Big Society’ which slipped away very quickly.
It hadn’t occurred to me until yesterday to really question what they mean by ‘hard-working people’. In a sense, I prefer the Big Society. At least there’s a sense of togetherness about it. Constant reference to help for ‘hard-working people’ has the implicit idea that there’s a group of people who aren’t hard working who don’t deserve any support. Referring to hard-working people is divisive. It’s us against them. And that’s assuming that I’m classified as a hard working person. I’m not sure about this, as I’ve not seen a definition.
In my mind, the truth of the matter has become a little clearer with the widespread circulation by the Conservatives of their charming little poster following on from the Budget (above). It’s the word ‘they’ that really grates. Not only is it patronising (that means talking down to people, George) but it also indicates that the politicians themselves – or at least the Conservatives – don’t fall into the definition of hard-working people.
So, what we now know is that there are hard working people (who like beer and bingo); there are people who don’t work hard (who deserve to be ignored), and there’s the political elite and their pals (who don’t enjoy beer and bingo). The only one of those I fit into is people who don’t work hard, as I’m partial to beer, but not bingo, so excluding me from the other two.
I’m a bit frustrated by this, as I think I do work hard. So perhaps this brings us no nearer a definition of hard-working people. How is it being defined? Is it defined by the number of hours we have to work? By the nature of the work? By how much they we earn? By how socially valuable the work is? By how economically important it is? Does it include work that isn’t paid, such as caring for a sick or disabled relative or friend, or parents who choose not to do paid work because they value time with their children? Does it only refer to work that is ‘hard’; and is it physically hard work or emotionally hard work, or intellectually hard work? And who’s defining ‘hard’ if it is?
Is it retrospective, so applicable to people who have worked hard in some way but – at this moment – can’t because of some other reason? Maybe, like me, they were working hard for, say, a quango that was abolished, and are now struggling to find other work? Does it apply to people who aren’t hard working right now but are aspirational strivers who want to make and do and could, with a bit of help, be hard workers? Do you see the problem here? And I’m not getting any closer.
Can anyone help me out here?
HOUSE! Damn, there goes my secret.