Margareta Pagano: Mr Osborne: You must heed the danger of division

A 1920s Steiff Harlequin teddy bear – being sold by a disgraced hedge fund manager – was bought for £46,850 at Christie's last Wednesday while the whole teddy collection fetched more than £1m.

In Paris, LVMH, which flogs Moet & Chandon champers, £1,100 Brea handbags and Tag Heuer watches, reported a 24 per cent rise in sales over three months and predicts greater things to come. Its flagship Louis Vuitton store on the Champs-Élysées, where tourists queue to enter, has been closing an hour early to preserve stock for what it expects to be a sell-out Christmas.

Meanwhile, Ferrari recently sold five of its ¤1.95m, 415kph Bugatti cars and is forecasting record profits this year. Chanel put its handbag prices up by 20 per cent, but they are still selling like hot cakes while Italian shoe-maker Salvatore Ferragamo says shoes are striding out of its stores like never before. Hugo Boss, Germany's upmarket fashion retailer, said profits growth will be twice earlier predictions and Burberry, hot on the heels of Mulberry last week, said current trading is go-go-go.

Before you scream with envy, or indeed outrage, it's worth noting that the luxury goods boom is great news for all of us. Even though these companies are selling most of their goods to tourists visiting Europe as well as through their shops in China, there is a knock-on effect here in terms of jobs and tax receipts.

What this brand bonanza reinforces, however, is how the world is splitting ever more deeply between West and East. And it is particularly ironic that this return to flamboyance comes the week before the most vicious cuts to government spending in living memory. As Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Secretary, warned in his inimitable way last week, the West is in grave danger of financial collapse if we don't sort ourselves out.

Even more dangerous than the global split are the divisions emerging within Britain as the coalition struggles to tackle the deficit; divisions between classes and generations. Attempts by George Osborne to play "fair" in the way he's spreading the pain is turning into the most farcical, and potentially explosive case of divide and rule between the classes. As usual, the working and upper classes will be spared while the middle classes get clobbered. What's worse, they are biddable: they don't threaten to flee to Swiss tax-havens, can't afford tax avoidance and don't strike. Well, not yet.

You can see why Osborne wants to cut child benefits, but he got the process terribly wrong and it's backfired by infuriating those he needs on side. Most people, myself included, accept they shouldn't receive child benefit but view the money as a rebate for the absurd amount of tax we pay. While there had to be reform in university funding, pushing up tuition fees will lead to a huge fall in the numbers of middle-class teenagers going to university at a time when we need investment in new skills more than ever.

Paradoxically, it's this middle strata which is the UK's most productive, which creates most of the new businesses, provides the country with new jobs, pays the most tax and, dare I say it, provides the country with the cultural glue that keeps it special. Osborne, and his coalition partners, must understand that ruling by division might be an easy way for now but in the long term will not create the unity of purpose we need to solve our problems.

Alien visitor: Has Varley just dropped in from outer space?

If men are from Mars and women are from Venus, then it's surely time for bankers to have their own planet too. Anyone listening to John Varley, the Barclays boss on Radio 4 talking about bonuses the other day couldn't fail to reach the same conclusion. Varley got into the most terrible twist because, instead of saying why his 150,000 investment bankers are worth bonuses of £1.5bn on top of their salaries, he tried to excuse it by claiming they were only a small number of the total – as most workers are in call centres, where "pay is no different from the millions of other British workers". By inference, he suggested this makes it OK to pay the rest a fortune; sorry, the logic doesn't work.

Then he tried to deflect the issue by saying only 15 per cent of total costs went on bonuses and that this is not "an outrageous number". Please, Mr Varley, that doesn't mean anything. If your bankers are worth it, then please have the guts to say so or people will wonder what planet you are on. Pluto would be perfect but it's no longer a planet so Uranus will have to do.

A university market, including Harvard's Cambridge, heralds recruitment changes

The big shake-up is coming. Within days of the threat of higher tuition fees, along comes supermarket group Morrisons with plans to fund 20 undergraduates to study for a BSc degree at Bradford's School of Management, one of the top 10 in the country. The new students will start their three-year "learn as you earn" block-release course in January, alternating between studying and working on the factory floor of Morrisons' s food manufacturing business – the second biggest in the UK with 18 factories around the country. But, once the students have finished the management and business studies, they have no obligations to stay, although most are expected to.

Norman Pickavance, the chain'sdirector of human resources, tells me the company decided on the pilot scheme because its graduates, who had studied mainly vocational degrees, would benefit from more experience. Jobs at Morrisons are always oversubscribed – from shop floor to top floor – and he expects masses of applications and even more when tuition fees soar.

Morrisons is not the only company adjusting its recruitment. Over dinner last week, the director of one of Britain's fastest growing companies, employing hundreds of engineering graduates, predicted that his own company – and others – would also start funding degree courses, rather like the Army. Companies might go further, as they already do with post-graduate research, hooking up with specific departments within universities and sponsoring more specialist subjects. Another biotech director I spoke to predicts our better universities, like UCL in London, could be taken over by US Ivy League colleges which have oodles of money. Once you introduce a market into higher education, then you'll open one up in the universities themselves. If you thought there was an outcry when Kraft bought Cadbury, just wait till Cambridge is pounced on by Harvard or Imperial College by Bejing's Tsinghua University. You can hear the fireworks now.

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Sport
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
football
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
News
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel
travel
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

The benefits of being in Recruitment at SThree...

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: SThree, International Recruitme...

Test Analyst - UAT - Credit Risk

£280 - £300 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Test Analyst, Edinburgh, Credit Ris...

Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment