Independent readers blast Tory ‘smear tactic’ against Starmer’s work-life balance

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, with his wife Victoria during a Labour Party campaign rally  (Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, with his wife Victoria during a Labour Party campaign rally (Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

Our readers have blasted Tory attacks against Sir Keir Starmer, branding criticism of his intention to reserve Friday nights for his family as an ineffective “smear” campaign that fails to recognise the importance of work-life balance.

Many Independent readers expressed strong support for Sir Keir when we asked for their opinions, emphasising the hypocrisy of the Conservative Party, given its historical stance on family values.

Critics felt dubbing the Labour leader a “part-time prime minister” was desperate, hypocritical, and likely to backfire, recalling instances where senior Tories like Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab took holidays during crises.

However, a handful of readers did express some concerns, arguing that being prime minister will mean accepting the job’s demanding nature.

The sentiment was shared over on Twitter/X, where we polled our readers. Almost 89% agreed that Sir Keir was right to prioritise his family after 6pm on a Friday.

Here’s what you had to say:


Of course Sir Keir has the right to make time for his family. The fact that the Tory party, for so long the self-appointed standard bearers for family values, should suggest otherwise demonstrates their hypocrisy and mean-spiritedness.


‘Thrive not survive’

Regardless of the political arguments here and that we are talking about politicians, we need more leaders to step up and demonstrate that you can only be a great leader if you are able to have more in your life than your job or career. In order to make the best decisions, take action when appropriate, bring others with you, grow those around you, you have to be well-rested, engage in different activities, be the person you want to be. And if that involves being a parent, a partner, a sportsperson, a musician or anything else, then you have to know how to make time for it.

Will there be times when the job might involve some extra hours - of course! Just like when being a parent might involve some extra hours. And we do it to be the best person we can be and have the success in life that we want. A career is one part of life and we need to manage priorities in all parts of life as we go. Because they do change.

So I applaud any leader who says and demonstrates that they understand that to be successful in any part of life you have to prioritise what is important in all parts of life. Let's have our leaders thrive rather than just survive.


What not to do

The Tory campaign will be seen in the future as what exactly not to do. The latest attack on Keir Starmer is actually losing votes for the Tories for a number of reasons, the first being is that it’s an attack on traditional family values something the Tories are always going on about, it comes across as anti-semitic or just ignorant of Jewish traditions and it’s just desperately pathetic, no one believes it which brings me to the last and probably most important point, when the Tories use these moronic attack lines hoping the electorate will buy them, it shows their utter contempt for the public. This party doesn’t have a clue and will be devastated in the elections, I’m so excited.



What a pile of confected garbage. There are thousands, if not millions, of jobs - from nuclear power technicians to lifeboatmen - which require 24-hour 'on call' status. That does not prevent attendance at Shabbat or at Thursday quiz night down the pub.

Tory private polling must be far worse than the 'public' polls for them to get this desperate.


‘Work smarter, not harder’

Work-life balance is extremely important for a person's mental health and affects their ability to do the job, doesn't matter who you are.

I heard a story that makes the point that I will paraphrase here. Two men go into the woods with the same type of axe and start chopping down trees, half way through the day the second man leaves for an hour then comes back. At the end of the day the second man had chopped down more trees than the first. The first man asked the second how he had chopped down more trees and where had he been in the middle of the day. The second man said "I went home to sharpen my axe". Work smarter, not harder. Recharge your mind and your body.

People who brag about the amount of time they spend on a job are often compensating for the lack of quality they produce. I also imagine a lot of Tory politicians who went to boarding school don't appreciate the value of family time as they weren't given it by their parents. Right-wingers would love to water down workers’ rights even further by getting rid of regulations like working time directives to squeeze even more out of employees but we shouldn't accept it.

No-one seriously believes that Starmer thinks the country will shut down when he clocks off or that nothing serious will happen at a weekend. I imagine Rishi Sunak needing to work late because there are no competent Tory MPs left who the work could be delegated to.


‘This is not a normal job’

I think it's commendable that Starmer wants to have some family stability.

However this is not a normal job with normal hours. What worries me is what happens out of hours.



Of course Starmer should be allowed time off with his family on Friday evening, especially if it’s to respect his wife’s faith. Some Tories seem to have forgotten how warmly they and the right-wing press welcomed Cameron’s comments about the regular downtime with his family that he took when PM. No mention of international crises or dereliction of duty then. Desperate stuff from a failed government going through its death throes (I hope).


‘As long as he’s there when the phone rings’

This is just Tory desperation and hypocrisy. I'm sure that if a crisis erupts at 7pm on a Friday then Starmer would get to it and be ready to work. I'm not a super fan of the man, but I doubt that he's lazy and workshy.

And besides, let's remember Boris Johnson. The man who waddled on a vacation every other month, and refused to work. Remember when his whole cabinet was on sunny vacations and couldn't be bothered to show up? Johnson was the personification of laziness, a man so idle that his booze parties got him kicked out of office.

Starmer's preference for family Fridays is fine. Who cares. As long as he's there when the phone rings.


Good management

If you're a good manager you can go home knowing your staff are competent and the systems you've put in place will keep things going until you come back to work on Monday morning.

Only if there is an emergency which requires you personally to deal with it should you need to go into work out of hours.


‘Burnt out’

Obviously the best thing for the country is for it to be led by someone completely burnt out from never having any rest, and miserable because they don't get to spend quality time with their loved ones. I know that I make all of my best decisions when exhausted, miserable and lonely...

The Mark in remarkable


I remember when Boris as London Mayor wouldn't end his holiday early to come back because of the awful rioting.

Starmer has said he would be available on a Friday evening if there was a serious matter to attend to. This is a non-issue and it's desperate for the Tories to make it out to be something it's not. No one can be expected to work 24/7 without any breaks.


Starmer ‘should put the country before himself’

I dislike politicians in general but Starmer shouldn't have decided to run for PM with these views. I understand he has a family but he knew that when he chose to run for PM.

He should have mentioned there would be cover in place, and I'm sure there will be. Starmer should be putting the country before himself, it comes with the job. As for the Tories, they can do one, lazy bunch of skivers.


‘No parent should miss out’

This is a non-issue. If Starmer wants to spend time with his wife and kids that is a commendable thing. This madness that he is somehow not allowed a private life is complete nonsense. And if he does it at a time when it supports his wife and children's faith then it is an even better thing. I respect him for doing this.

His children will soon be grown up and no parent should miss out on their children's growing up. At least he has his priorities right. Tories are just liars.


‘Not Batman’

Why does this always happen? Why do Tories always try and a big deal of perfectly reasonable statements?

He would be the PM, not Batman. There are millions of people running the various parts of the country. They do not need the Prime Minister at the beck and call to keep everything together.

Sure if something happens, at 18:15 on Friday, then the PM will be expected to take control, but nobody is expecting him to drive an ambulance if a guy in Putney has a lie in.


‘Effort to keep normalcy’

The guy said he took his kids to sports and had dinner with his family. This isn't news - this is Keir Starmer's effort to keep normalcy in a very not normal job with his family.

Now if he were to clock off on a Friday and there's a crisis, I'd probably feel different - but he even said in his interview and I quote "I will not do a work-related thing after six o’clock, pretty well come what may. There are a few exceptions, but that’s what we do.”

Don't get me wrong, I don't like Keir that much. But it's kind of intense how people are just unable to be logical or rational about these things.


‘Starmer is never clear’

This is why Starmer will always be attacked.

He is never clear on any issue. Personal or otherwise. He should have just said ‘my wife is Jewish and we observe Shabbat’ instead of the nonsense we now have....


‘Tories are desperate’

Tories are desperate. Raab was paddleboarding in Mediterranian during the Afghanistan evacuation. Part-time Johnson used to go on more holidays every year than he had children and still felt that he needed "power nap" after his lunches.


‘Family is the bedrock of society’

Lame and desperate Tory smear tactic. Family is the bedrock of society and he should be applauded for trying to balance family with his political responsibilities. Obviously if needs be he would sacrifice that family time (we are talking a few hours on a Friday night!) if the interests of the nation required that.



There are countless studies showing that being at work all the time doesn't make you more productive and that finding a good work/life balance is actually key to wellbeing, physical and mental health and general happiness. There are also many examples of other countries (France/Germany, etc.) where this is already commonplace and hasn't led to a sudden decrease in productivity.

It is refreshing to see a politician recognising this, and normalising "normal" working hours/days/weeks.

The tories haven't got a leg to stand on, between Boris "I'm on holibobs so won't come to Cobra meetings" Johnson and Dominic "The sea was closed" Raab.


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