Well someone has finally said it…Andrew Marr issued an exasperated plea to politicians of all sides on his BBC One Sunday morning programme – ‘please stop saying ‘hard-working families quite so often’.
It isn’t just a rebuff to George Osborne or the Conservative party but to the Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Seema Malhotra MP ; yes it’s now entered the lexicon of all the mainstream parties, having started on the right and spread like a computer virus to puncture every sentence uttered by Westminster politicians, whatever their political hue.
At times it seems as if an MP who doesn’t use the phrase in an interview isn’t toeing the parliamentary line.
One of the reasons why the phrase is so popular is because it’s a bit like ‘mom, apple pie and the girl next door’ ; you’ll travel far and wide to find someone who believes HWFs are a scourge on society and should be sent back to where they came from in an iron coffin with spikes in it, to borrow a Monty Python-ism.
Another reason why the phrase has become part of contemporary political jargon may be because of its insidious reference to the people it doesn’t include. You know, the ones who AREN’T hard-working, in fact, let’s face it, for many people, probably the ones who aren’t working at all. (Not ‘us’ of course, the hard-working ones).
We’re talking about the type of person who injects heroin into the brains of their offspring, drinks strong cider at 9am, survives on a diet of fries and pizza all day and whose pinnacle of intellectual stimulation is watching other people like them on daytime tv.
Oh yes, and maybe those who don’t work for their hard-earned pay but survive on benefits when they could be out there like the rest of us not just working, but working hard.
Anyway, we GET it now. Can we dig a little deeper please and maybe adopt some plain-speaking? Or at the very least, move onto another cliché?
We know who you mean when you refer to HWFs and the implied criticism that people who don’t fall into whichever category you’re referring to can go to hell in a handcart for all you care.
Of course, whisper it quietly nowadays, but there are people who are on benefits who can’t work even a little bit, never mind ‘hard’.
But let’s not talk about them, it’s easier to be vague and assume a shared perspective that nobody could possibly disagree with.
Which is another reason why it’s now being used across the political spectrum. Meanwhile many of ‘us’ just nod our heads when it’s uttered and move on. Because really it’s just too difficult to get to grips with the fact that the phrase means different things to different people, and different political parties.
But we knew that anyway, didn’t we?