Letter: The manual worker's lot

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The Independent Online
Alan Watkins's column on 2 February showed his lack of understanding of other people's occupations. When dealing with the issue of a future Labour cabinet not having members who have "worked with their hands" he said that John Prescott came nearest because he was a ship's purser, then tried to undermine even that concession by reminding us that he attended Ruskin College Oxford and Hull University.

To attain the position of a ship's purser in Mr Prescott's days you started out as a cabin boy washing pots, graduated to cleaning cabins, moved on to making beds, diversified into serving ships officers or passengers and finally, after much hard work, you may have been fortunate to become a junior/senior purser. Before arriving at this heady position you most certainly worked with your hands and, on many occasions, on your knees scrubbing decks.

As for Ruskin College, it caters for those with experience and intelligence but no academic qualifications to prove it and provides them with the qualifications to go on to universities such as Hull.

It is like me saying you cannot understand what it is like to be a cub reporter because you are an editor, ignoring the years you spent learning your trade before attaining your current position.

Pete Allen

Transport & General Workers Union