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

Share

“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

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£16575 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity is ava...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A police officer carries a casualty to safety  

Tunisia attack proves that we cannot stop terrorists carrying out operations against Britons in Muslim countries

Robert Verkaik
Alan Titchmarsh MP?  

Alan Titchmarsh MP? His independent manifesto gets my vote

Jane Merrick
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue