'Stop buying Home Counties schlosses': Boris Johnson rattles super-wealthy with plea for greater philanthropy

Mayor of New York says Britain had yet to catch up with American idea of large-scale giving

Social Affairs Correspondent

Boris Johnson launched an extraordinary attack against Britain's super-rich today, saying they ignored philanthropy in favour of buying "colossal grouse moorland" and "great schlosses in the Home Counties".

In a speech that will disgruntle Tory grandees - and their grouse-farming, Home Country-dwelling supporters - the Mayor of London said rich Britons were too preoccupied with passing on "the biggest possible house" to their children to invest in good causes.

Speaking at the launch of a competition for innovation in European cities, funded through the philanthropy of New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg, Mr Johnson said that Britain had yet to catch up with the American idea of large-scale giving.

"I think it's a cultural thing", he said. "The trouble with the people in this country is - and I'll get myself in terrible trouble here - but what they really want to do when they've amassed colossal wealth in Britain, what they like to do is buy the biggest possible house they can, with the most colossal grouse moorland they can find and then try in some desperate way to perpetuate it and to pass it on to their children, for some unknown reason. In America they have a different attitude. They believe that if you've made a lot of money you should do something for society."

He continued: "There's still something in Britain that regards giving away on a huge scale as being somehow ostentatious and that is absolutely ridiculous and the sooner people get over their lust to buy great schlosses in the Home Counties - or indeed grouse moors - and give to great causes in London, the better."

Interrupting Mr Johnson's rant, Mayor Bloomberg said: "For the record, I've been reasonably successful but I've never wanted to buy a grouse moor," to which Johnson replied: "That's right. But that is the tragedy of how it works in this country, and bully for you."

The London Mayor was speaking at the launch of Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge, a competition to inspire European cities to generate ideas to improve city life. The competition will award £4.2 million for the main prize-winner and one million for four additional cities that come up with the best ideas.

Mr Johnson said London's entries into the competition might include the ultra-low emission zone set to come in by 2020, barring any vehicle with an internal combustion engine, and aquatic village proposals he called a "Venice in the docks".

London and New York's mayors were joined at the news conference in London's City Hall by the Mayor of Warsaw, Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, and Florence Mayor Matteo Renzi.

The competition, which is similar to one conducted in America last year,  invites leaders of European cities with 100,000 residents or more to submit their city's "boldest idea". Around 600 cities around Europe are eligible to apply.

In a defence of his own philanthropy, Mr Bloomberg said: "There are some places in Europe where they look down on private philanthropy, arguing it takes away the responsibility of the Government. I think that's misguided because the government should do conventional things with the public's money, but society needs innovation and risk-takers and that's where private philanthropy fits in."

Tory demesnes: To the manor born

Boris Johnson

In a convenient memory lapse, Boris Johnson seems to have forgotten the sizeable estate that he and his siblings will inherit from his parents. His father Stanley Johnson inherited the 500-acre farm in the Exe Valley from his father, who bought it in 1951. Now Boris’s sister, Rachel Johnson, who edits The Lady, also has a cottage in the grounds. As well as a north London town house worth several million pounds, Boris himself has a former farmhouse in Oxfordshire that he bought for almost £750,000 in 2003.

Richard Benyon

A minister in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, who recently advised people to save more leftovers, Mr Benyon is set to inherit a country pile with an 8,000-acre grouse moor attached. He was valued at £110m by The Times. He is the son of Sir William Benyon, a former Tory MP who owns the 20,000-acre Englefield Estate in Berkshire (above left), who is said to be worth £125m.

Iain Duncan Smith

The man who dreamt up the bedroom tax knows all about inheriting Home County piles. He lives rent-free in his father-in-law’s £2m Tudor house in a sprawling Buckinghamshire estate. It has at least five bedrooms, a swimming pool, tennis courts and acres of land.

David Cameron

The Prime Minister likes to downplay his privileged background, but he and his wife Samantha’s fortune has previously been estimated at £30m. They own a £1m country home in Oxfordshire and a £1.5m north Kensington house which they rent out, but their real wealth is likely to come from inheritance.

Emily Dugan and Jochan Embley

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
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 General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Middleweight

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's fastest growing full s...

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

Recruitment Genius: Commercial Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Estimating, preparation of tech...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will work as part of a smal...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada