Can you ever justify a £1million salary?

If you come from nothing, you always want something more. That’s why you work so hard: to create a better life for you and yours

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“No-one needs to earn more than £1million a year,” ran the BBC headline. It had me coughing up my morning coffee.

It's something I’ve said since I was a precocious teenager, usually to the total derision of the dwindling band of people prepared to listen. Only, this time it was Vince Cable speaking. Yes, the Business Secretary.

It appears quite sensible at first sight. Why indeed would anyone need more than £1million a year? After yet another week of obscene CEO pay packages and minimal public sector workers’ rises it’s surely difficult to argue with.

However, as I’ve learned since I first dared utter my naïve opinion, this is to entirely ignore human nature, and what motivates so many to succeed.

That full Cable quote continues: “I've asked one or two of the more sympathetic bankers to explain it to me. The response has been: ‘It's not that I need the money, it is because others get it so I should, too.’ That is a ludicrous mindset. What on earth do these people think they are doing?”

Cable is not one of those Old Etonians around the PM, Michael Gove was mischief-making about. He did go to Cambridge, but only by way of a grammar school in York, where his parents were chocolate factory workers.

He will know all about aspiration, now, sadly such a dirty word in Britain. In fact, he will know more about it than most Old Etonians, for whom achievement is the expected norm.

Until I was 11, I lived in a two-up two-down council house with an outdoor loo. Back then, my Aunt’s four-bedroom semi (with a garage, and an actual car in it!) felt like a mansion. I couldn’t imagine living anywhere as nice.

We moved to a Croydon council estate: a house with a (carless) garage and two bathrooms. It was luxury. The next house, the semi-detached with garage and garden my Ma still owns, seemed positively palatial. In Norbury!

Lovely as her home will always be, I haven’t thought that for years. That changed with my ability to buy a house myself. If you come from nothing, you always want something more. That’s why you work so hard: to create a better life for you and yours - not platitudes, but reality.

The sneering middle classes don’t understand that as they look down their noses at “new money” and how it is spent. But, it’s also why so many of the “hard-working” people both parties seek to exploit during Budget week are so profoundly worried.

Today, in the South and scattered pockets elsewhere, it seems no matter how hard you work you will never afford that house that will make for a better home. Your children? Dream on. Where does that leave your motivation?

No-one needs to earn a million quid? Perhaps not when we bought homes on three and a half times salary mortgages (remember?). But last month the average UK house price broke the £250,000 barrier (ONS), while the Land Registry says in London it’s £410,000. And that, in 2014’s crazy economics, is why Vince Cable is wrong, even though he should be right.

Now, what about a £1m cap on house prices (copyright: Stefano Hatfield, aged 15)? Or swapping free school milk for free after-school ice creams for all children (me, aged 7)? Over to you, George Osborne.

Stefano Hatfield is editorial director of London Live

Twotter.com: @stefanohat

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