London Mayor Boris Johnson says people should stop 'bashing' the super-rich

Debate: Boris Johnson is right to say we’re overly eager to bash the super-rich

Share
Related Topics

Surprise, surprise.  Boris Johnson has gone and caused a signature ruckus: this time saying we should celebrate, not condemn, the UK’s batch of gazillionaires. And he doesn’t stop there – saying the papers should abandon their annual rich lists and replace them with a catalogue of the country’s top 100 “Tax Heroes”, with automatic knighthoods handed out to the top 10 earners-come-tax contributors.

So is the Dulux dog of English politics barking mad? Or could he be barking up the right tree?

Case for

As the London Mayor points out, the top 0.1 per cent of UK earners currently pays 14.1 per cent of all this country’s taxes. That slim demographic – around 29,000 people according to Mr Johnson – should be venerated, not dismissed. They provide a sterling example to this country’s aspiring youngsters: giving them much to aim for in terms of both personal success and tax contribution to the greater good.

We also have much to learn from the international community about how best to treat (and keep) our rich. France, in particular, provides the case in point for keeping the wealth bashing to a minimum. President Hollande – now perhaps the most unpopular French person since Marie Antoinette – is finding out that imposing onerous taxes doesn’t work quite as effectively as that little Russell Brand inside us of all would hope.

Though Gerard Depardieu is the poster boy for European tax dodging, his case is just one of thousands. Bernard Arnault, owner of luxury brand LVMH and the15th richest man in the world according to Bloomberg Billionaires Index, applied for Belgian resident almost immediately after Hollande reached office.  Regretfully for France, Mr Arnault set a trend. As the Financial Times reports, thousands of wealthy French followed his example.

One does not hasten to imagine the amount of lucre Mr Arnault – or his fellow wealthy decampers – could have contributed in tax to the President's desired development of the banlieues. Britain should take note of the French example. Bash the rich at your peril – it may only serve to increase the maladies of the poor.

Case against

Boris Johnson says the top 0.1 per cent of earners pay 14.1 per cent of all UK tax. We say: so what? That figure is not, as Johnson puts it, “amazing”, but actually rather shocking. Such a top heavy society is neither admirable nor sustainable. It calls for redress.

Nor should we be surprised at this kind of rubbish – especially coming from His Fluffiness, the Mayor. The ultra-rich (many of whom are remnant mates from bygone Bullingdon days) are Boris's favourite minority – as evinced by the last last time he stuck up for bankers, suggesting they were treated like “lepers”.

But there is a more pragmatic reason for keeping up pressure on the plutocrats. Namely, tax. Geographically and ideologically, the UK currently occupies a middle ground in taxing terms between the US and harsher taxing countries like France. While the Byzantine tax laws of the US allow insane tax breaks for the uber-wealthy (the family who own Walmart, the Waltons, somehow have the same net-worth as the bottom 40 per cent of all Americans), the UK currently has tax laws that – at least to some small degree –  work. We must keep up the pressure on the rich and make sure the unthinkable does not come to pass: that is, the near-taxless society dreamt of by American economist Art Laffer and endorsed by Mr Johnson.

As Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett set out in their bestseller The Spirit Level: the greater a country’s economic disparity, the more miserable its inhabitants – right the way across the wealth spectrum.

We shouldn’t be praising the ultra-rich and we certainly shouldn’t, as Boris suggests, be knighting them. Let’s increase, not slacken, the pressure: equal societies are happy societies.

@josephcharlton4

We’re overly eager to bash the super-rich

Read Next
 

There is far too much sexism in the UK - but a point scoring system against other countries won't help to tackle it

Victoria Richards
 

Upmarket and downmarket – why the modern consumer loves a bit of both

Sean O'Grady
How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers