The other day I went up to London on the stopping service.
I was ambling through the Hampshire countryside and unfamiliar stations and actually hearing conversations, unlike the usual commuter train that falls silent the moment the doors close.
One particular conversation caused me to prick up my ears. A group of young boys and girls were poking fun at one of their number for having a job at a well-known fast food restaurant.
It was good-natured, but one sentence did make me think when one friend said to the worker: ‘Mate, flipping burgers is for losers. I’d rather be on the dole.’
I was reading a newspaper report just then about a certain Cait Reilly, an unemployed geology graduate, who had tried to get the High Court to agree that working at Poundland for free on a government back-to-work initiative was slavery.
Miss Reilly argued that her participation in the Sector-Based Work Academy scheme was stopping her finding a permanent job in her specialist field.
The wise Judge Mr Justice Foskett expressed his incredulity at using human rights laws designed to combat colonial-style exploitation to attempt to avoid having to work for benefits at Poundland.
Now I might be a Conservative MP, but I don’t think I’m reactionary about these issues. I realise most young people are hungry for work and that there are those who couldn’t care less has always been the case to some extent.
But there is one fundamental change in attitudes over the past 30 years that makes this issue more complicated. When did it become okay to ridicule work?
How can being on the dole ever be better than working at a fast food restaurant? How can getting work experience at a well-known store be considered slavery?
I admire people who work at fast food restaurants, just like I admire anyone who provides for themselves and their loved ones.
It’s perhaps not the best job in the world, but for many, it’s a stepping stone to better things.