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The dignity of toil

27 Jun 2024 3 minute read
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer. Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Ben Wildsmith

You have to hand it to the Conservatives. Having besmirched the body politic with indulgence in seemingly every conceivable human frailty and vice over the last fourteen years, they’ve managed to squeeze in gambling as the fat lady’s final note is decaying into silence.

Their sheer commitment to grubbiness is unmatched outside of ecclesiastic circles.

Which made it all the more risible during last night’s debate when Rishi Sunak wheeled out the belief most beloved of all politicians: that we, the swinish multitude, derive ‘dignity’ from work.

I would dearly love to meet whoever first advanced this idea, so that I could look him in the eye and shake him warmly by the neck. Dignity, indeed!

Uniquely amongst the dishonest, manipulative tropes that politicians lob at us, they undoubtedly believe this one.


As you are scrabbling around in the dark at 6.00am, in search of a sock without a hole in it so that you can get on the road before it bottlenecks into a car park, Johnny Politico likes to imagine your eagerness to contribute to the national cause.

When you arrive, sweating and apologising for the traffic making you late, he pictures you wrapped in a flag, frustrated that your productivity has been constrained.

At lunchtime, as you dive into Greggs to cram down a steak bake whilst your boss barks further instructions down the phone, your elected representative sees you sat on a Constable waggon wheel, taking a moment to survey the bucolic perfection of the morning’s ploughing.

As direct debits hurtle out of your account on pay day, pushing you into the red if you escaped it in the first place, he takes comfort that you have earned the respect of your peers.

Finally, when you’re carted up the local crem years before your time, with cemented arteries and a spine like a coat hanger, you have his ultimate respect.

If you were a miner, he might have once suggested that you were ‘the enemy within’. Perhaps, as a junior doctor, he called you a ‘doctor in training’.

Never mind, ‘lefty lawyers’, ‘lazy council workers’, ‘ideological teachers’, ‘overpaid train drivers’ and the rest of us are all forgiven once we’ve been worked into the grave.


A six-foot hole full of dignity awaits us all if we are fortunate enough to avoid the hell of a life lived off investments.

At some point next Friday morning, a victorious politician will tell us how he is looking forward to ‘rolling up his sleeves’ because there is so much work to be done.

Both main candidates know all about this, after all their parents had jobs apparently.

Like you, though, they aren’t in it for the money.

Inspired by the dignity that dripped off their fathers into the tin bath by the fire, they are fuelled only by ‘service’.

Ever so ‘umble they are, and unable to conceive of a selfish thought.

So, forgive them if they romanticise your relationship with work a little.

These vessels of honest duty just see themselves in you. Silhouetted against the fire of a blast furnace, you gaze skywards in their mind’s eye, soundtracked by the Morriston Orpheus Choir and smeared in soot, you carry their dreams in your snap tin.

But remember, if you have to be replaced by AI, it’s your own fault.

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16 days ago

Speaking of AI, a quick check reveals this ….”The expression “dignity from work” was prominently used by Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer. He has frequently invoked this phrase in his speeches and policy discussions to emphasize the importance of ensuring that work provides not just a livelihood but also a sense of dignity and respect for individuals. This concept aligns with the Labour Party’s broader focus on social justice and workers’ rights.”

Who would have thought it?

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
15 days ago

Too true. Politicians patronise us to the hilt while protecting the interests of business in cheap labour, big profits and greed. There is no dignity in working your fingers to the bone while earning so little you cant afford a home/food/heating etc etc, etc. Its enslavement

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