The Mayor of London Boris Johnson has told people to stop “bashing” the super-rich, comparing them to hard-pressed minorities like the homeless, Irish travellers or ex-gang members.
Mr Johnson accused “everyone from the Archbishop of Canterbury to Nick Clegg” of bullying the group he defined as “zillionaires” – and said the most rich of all should receive “automatic knighthoods”.
The comments come from an article Mr Johnson wrote for the Daily Telegraph, and appear just a day after the BBC’s The Revolution Will Be Televised programme criticised the capital’s mayor for his “career in show business” – confronting him and asking when he would move into politics.
Mr Johnson said the rich deserve our “humble and hearty thanks” for their contributions to charity and the exchequer – quoting figures that say the top 1 per cent pay 29.8 per cent of all UK income tax.
“It is my duty to stick up for every put-upon minority in the city – from the homeless to Irish travellers to ex-gang members to disgraced former MPs,” Mr Johnson wrote.
“But there is one minority that I still behold with a benign bewilderment, and that is the very, very rich.
“These are the people who put bread on the tables of families who – if the rich didn’t invest in supercars and employ eau de cologne-dabbers – might otherwise find themselves without a breadwinner,” Mr Johnson said.
“We should stop any bashing or moaning or preaching or bitching and simply give thanks for the prodigious sums of money that they are contributing to the tax revenues of this country, and that enable us to look after our sick and our elderly and to build roads, railways and schools,” he said.
The London Assembly's Labour group leader Len Duvall responded to the mayor's article, saying: “Many hard-pressed Londoners will find Boris’ views on the super-rich difficult to stomach, at a time when people are struggling with the cost of living crisis his comments are deeply offensive.
“Rather than cosying up to the 0.1 per cent he should be spending his time using his position as our Mayor to ease the burden on ordinary Londoners.”
On Twitter, Mr Johnson’s comments were backed by the Spectator editor Fraser Nelson, who said: “He’s right, but which other politician would dare say so?”
But Adam Bienkov from Politics.co.uk compared the mayor’s comments to the fact that the number of homeless in London has doubled over the past five years – despite Mr Johnson’s promise “to end rough sleeping in London by the end of 2012”.
Paul Isemonger said the comments were “an absurd anachronism”, while student activists People’s Assembly Against Austerity from King’s College, London said: “Boris Johnson has suggested that the super rich are an oppressed minority. These people just don't get it, do they?”