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
 

Taking on Ukip requires a delicate balancing act for both main parties

Andrew Grice
Today is a bigger Shabbes than usual in the Jewish world because it has been chosen to launch the Shabbos Project  

Shabbes exerts a pull on all Jews, and today is bigger than ever

Howard Jacobson
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker