Lisa Markwell: Forget Clegg's tax idea – let's get the rich into philanthropy

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The Independent Online

I got back on my bicycle yesterday (yes, I was inspired by Wiggo, but it doesn't do to rush into anything). One of the most pleasant parts of my journey used to be freewheeling down west London's Kensington Palace Gardens, past the white stucco mansions that look like so many elaborate wedding cakes. How I'd chuckle at – and envy – the opulence enjoyed by Lakshmi Mittal, Jon Hunt, the boss of Foxtons, and the various embassy folk who live there.

Now the iced confections look sickly and disgusting. Parked outside are endless "lifestyle concept" vans and builders' lorries, endlessly dispatching cararra marble and state-of-the art lighting systems within. This "industry" reached its zenith (or should I say nadir?) with the arrival this month of the leaf blowers.

These whining, polluting wastes of time (that's the machines, not the owners) just exist to create work. Nick Clegg's call for an emergency tax on the rich is almost as much hot air. But what about getting these billionaires to boost our economy by appealing to their philanthropic side instead? (God knows, enough of the little gilt chairs and catering trucks on that street are for £5,000-a-plate charity events.)

Last week during my epic visit to A&E I was told by a nurse – while he simultaneously handed out drugs, changed beds, briefed agency workers and hooked me up to an ECG – that his duties in the near future would include serving breakfast.

I know it's woefully naive and simplistic, but if the residents of Britain's swankiest streets sponsored the workers in its grittiest corners (ie nurses) everyone would benefit. And let the leaves fall where they may.