Leadership hopeful Liz Truss failed to retract her comments on British workers needing "more graft" even after being pushed on it four times.
The Foreign secretary, Liz Truss sidestepped a questions on whether she thinks Britons don’t work hard enough.
It comes after she was heard claiming in a leaked recording obtained by the Guardian, that UK workers need "more graft"
When pushed by journalists, instead of clarifying comments she had made a number of years ago, she elected to talk about her plans to create a "high wage" economy if she is handed the keys to Number 10.
Labour have said the claims Ms Truss made a number of years ago are "grossly offensive."
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper told ITV News the comments show what Liz Truss 'really thinks' of UK workers and that they fit now shelved plans to cut public sector pay.
“There’s a fundamental issue of British working culture," Ms Truss can be heard saying in the recording, which was made when she was a minister at the Treasury.
“Essentially, if we’re going to be a richer country and a more prosperous country, that needs to change. But I don’t think people are that keen to change that," she goes on.
She added there was a “slight thing in Britain about wanting the easy answers," before saying: “But actually what needs to happen is more... more graft. It’s not a popular message.”
Libby Wiener on how damaging the leaked audio will be for Liz Truss
The foreign secretary also said productivity was “very, very different in London from the rest of the country”, claiming this was “partly a mindset and attitude thing."
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Jonathan Ashworth referenced an abandoned Truss campaign pledge which would have cut public sector pay outside London, adding: “Now it’s revealed she has been saying people outside London don’t have the right culture or attitude.
“With wages shrinking thanks to Tory failure to bring inflation under control and years of lacklustre growth, it’s grossly offensive for Liz Truss to effectively brand British workers lazy.”
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Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said on Good Morning Britain on Wednesday that Ms Truss's remarks were "a total disgrace."
"It shows what Liz Truss really thinks of British people, particularly people outside London," she added.
Asked about the remarks at the Tory leadership hustings in Perth on Tuesday, Ms Truss said: “I don’t know what you are quoting there but the points that I have always made is what we need in this country is more productivity across the country and we need more economic growth.
“The thing that we don’t have enough of is capital investment and that is why it is so important that we get businesses investing, whether it is in the oil and gas industry, whether it is in the whisky industry.”
Earlier this month on the campaign trail, Ms Truss was forced to abandon an £8.8 billion plan which could have seen public sector pay slashed outside London.
The Tory leadership frontrunner scrapped the plan for regional pay boards a little over 12 hours after announcing it.
Former Cabinet minister Sajid Javid, who is backing Ms Truss in the leadership race, defended her comments on Wednesday, saying “productivity in the UK versus other comparable countries is generally lower and that’s been a longstanding UK problem," though he insisted British workers "are amongst the hardest working in the world."
“That comment, as I understand it, was made a number of years ago; I don’t know the exact context that was made in," he told Sky News.
“I think what she’s talking about is business and investment, because to increase productivity the government of course has a huge role to play – there’s capital investment, things like infrastructure investment, for example, those areas that get more of it generally of course can do better in terms of productivity," he added.
Truss supporter and Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi also defended the foreign secretary's remarks, telling broadcasters: "Well, what Liz Truss was talking about is can we improve productivity in the United Kingdom?
“Every percentage point of productivity improvement means the economy improves, we can pay for more nurses and doctors and teachers," he added.