Companies would be banned from paying senior executives vastly higher wages than junior employees, and would not be allowed to hand out dividends until all staff were earning the Living Wage, under plans signalled today by Jeremy Corbyn.
The Labour leader, who is setting out proposals to close the gap between top earners and low-paid staff, will commit the party to act to “institutionalise fairness”.
He also repeated his support for bringing the railways back into public ownership and for “democratic control” of the energy giants.
Mr Corbyn’s critics, both inside and outside the party, will seize on his plans as evidence that he is trying to drive its platform to the left. Any move to intervene in company pay is also bound to face fierce criticism from business.
But the Labour leader’s allies insist his commitment to tackling inequality will strike a chord with the public who are dismayed by the excesses of company bosses.
Mr Corbyn told a Fabian conference in London: “Too much of the proceeds of growth have accumulated to those at the top.”
He argued: “Everyone benefits when companies succeed. One proposal is pay ratios between top and bottom, so that the rewards don’t just accrue to those at the top.
The most ridiculous claims made about Jeremy Corbyn
The most ridiculous claims made about Jeremy Corbyn
1/11 He called Hezbollah and Hamas ‘friends’
True. In a speech made to the Stop the War Coalition in 2009, Mr Corbyn called representatives from both groups “friends” after inviting them to Parliament. He later told Channel 4 he wanted both groups, who have factions designated as international terror organisations, to be “part of the debate” for the Middle East peace process. “I use (the word ‘friends’) in a collective way, saying our friends are prepared to talk,” he added. “Does it mean I agree with Hamas and what it does? No. Does it mean I agree with Hezbollah and what they do? No.”
2/11 ‘Jeremy Corbyn thinks the death of Osama bin Laden was a tragedy’
Partly false. David Cameron used this as a line of attack at the Conservative Party conference but appears to have left out all context from Mr Corbyn’s original remarks. In an 2011 interview on Iranian television, the then-backbencher said the fact the al-Qaeda leader was not put on trial was the tragedy, continuing: “The World Trade Center was a tragedy, the attack on Afghanistan was a tragedy, the war in Iraq was a tragedy.”
3/11 He is ‘haunted’ by the legacy of his ‘evil’ great-great-grandfather
False. A Daily Express exposé revealed that the Labour leader’s ancestor, James Sargent, was the “despotic” master of a Victorian workhouse. Addressing the report at the Labour conference, Mr Corbyn said he had never heard of him before, adding: “I want to take this opportunity to apologise for not doing the decent thing and going back in time and having a chat with him about his appalling behaviour.”
4/11 Jeremy Corbyn raised a motion about ‘pigeon bombs’ in Parliament
This one is true. On 21 May 2004, Mr Corbyn raised an early day motion entitled “pigeon bombs”, proposing that the House register being “appalled but barely surprised” that MI5 reportedly proposed to load pigeons with explosives as a weapon. The motion continued: “The House… believes that humans represent the most obscene, perverted, cruel, uncivilised and lethal species ever to inhabit the planet and looks forward to the day when the inevitable asteroid slams into the earth and wipes them out thus giving nature the opportunity to start again.” It was not carried.
5/11 He rides a Communist bicycle
False. A report in The Times referred to Mr Corbyn, known for his cycling, riding a “Chairman Mao-style bicycle” earlier this year. “Less thorough journalists might have referred to it as just a bicycle, but no, so we have to conclude that whenever we see somebody on a bicycle from now on, there goes another supporter of Chairman Mao,” he later joked.
6/11 'Jeremy Corbyn will appoint a special minister for Jews'
False so far. The Sun report in December was allegedly based on a “rumour” passed to the paper by a Daily Express columnist who has written pieces critical of the Labour leader in the past. The minister did not materialise in his shadow cabinet.
7/11 ‘Jeremy Corbyn wishes Britain would abolish its Army’
False. Another gem from The Sun took comments made at a Hiroshima remembrance parade in August 2012 where Mr Corbyn supported Costa Rica’s move to abolish it armed forces. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every politician around the world…abolished the army and took pride in the fact that they don’t have an army,” he added. The caveat that “every politician” must take the step suggests Mr Corbyn does not support UK disarmament just yet.
8/11 Jeremy Corbyn stole sandwiches meant for veterans
False. The Guido Fawkes blog claimed that the Labour leader took sandwiches meant for veterans at at Battle of Britain memorial service in September but a photo later emerged showing him being handed one by Costa volunteers, who later confirmed they were given to all guests.
9/11 He missed the induction into the Queen’s privy council
True. After much speculation about Mr Corbyn’s republican views and willingness to bow to the monarch, his office confirmed that he did not attend the official induction to the privy council because of a prior engagement, but did not rule out joining the body.
10/11 Jeremy Corbyn refuses to sing the national anthem.
Partly true. The Labour leader was filmed standing in silence as God Save the Queen was sung at a Battle of Britain remembrance service but will reportedly sing it in future. Mr Corbyn was elusive on the issue in an interview, saying he would show memorials “respect in the proper way”, but sources said he would sing the anthem at future occasions.
11/11 He is a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Cheese
True. The group lists its purpose as the following: “To increase awareness of issues surrounding the dairy industry and focus on economic issues affecting the dairy industry and producers.”
“Of the G7 nations, only the US has greater income inequality than the UK. Pay inequality on this scale is neither necessary nor inevitable.” The High Pay Centre think-tank has calculated that the average chief executive of a FTSE100 company is paid 183 times more than the average wage. It also found that only one-quarter of those firms were Living-Wage accredited.
Mr Corbyn also floated a plan to ban or restrict firms from distributing dividends to shareholders if they are not paying the Living Wage to all staff. “Only profitable employers will be paying dividends. If they depend on cheap labour for those profits, then I think there is a question over whether that is a business model to which we should be turning a blind eye.”
He pointed to research by the OECD which concluded that failure to distribute wealth more evenly hinders economic growth. “A more equal society is not only fairer, it does better in terms of economic stability and wealth creation,” he said.
The Labour leader argued that train fares would fall and investment increase if the railways were returned to public ownership. “It would be governed not remotely from Whitehall, but by passengers, rail workers and politicians, local and national,” he added.
Bringing gas and electricity companies under “democratic control” would also help to reduce costs and ease the transition to carbon-free energy supplies, he claimed.
“Do you know that half of German energy suppliers are owned by local authorities, communities and small businesses? There are now over 180 German towns and cities taking over their local electricity grids, selling themselves cleaner, and cheaper, electricity they increasingly produce for themselves. That is something we as Labour should want to emulate – and the most innovative Labour councils are starting to do so.”
Mr Corbyn said that Labour would reverse cuts to social care, introduce universal childcare, create a lifelong education service and embark on a major house-building programme.
“Fairness isn’t just an abstract morality that we claim, it is something we together – as Labour – have delivered over decades in Britain,” he will say. “[The Conservatives’] concept of fairness is of a very different order to ours. Fairness for only a few is not fairness, but privilege.”
He added that the impact of the flooding was exacerbated by cuts to flood defences, that the Tories’ “laissez-faire attitude to the steel industry could let a downturn become a death spiral”.
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