Sometimes it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. In politics, it’s more often than not the latter that matters most. Liz Kendall, star of my somewhat unsuccessful 2015 campaign to ‘Make Liz Kendall Labour Leader and Queen of Everything’, has been pilloried online for suggesting care workers would be ‘better off stacking shelves at Morrisons’ given their pay and conditions. Her remarks were pounced upon as proof of snobbery towards supermarket staff, a largely unacknowledged army of key workers during the Covid-19 pandemic.
As ever with outrage rampages, the truth is a bit more prosaic. Here is Kendall’s question in full:
‘Despite repeated promises, the truth is that someone would be better off stacking shelves at Morrisons than caring for older or disabled people, and that is simply not good enough for our country. Can the minister confirm that the government’s Covid infection control fund had to be used to improve pay so that staff did not have to work for more than one care home and could actually afford to self-isolate? If that is the case, will she commit to permanently enshrining these improvements across the sector to keep all care users and all care workers safe?’
It’s fairly obvious that Kendall was arguing for the government to assign greater worth to the work of care staff, not denigrating the efforts of the people who help keep the nation’s larders stocked. We should esteem care workers more, not supermarket workers less.