Question Time audience member prompts widespread bewilderment after refusing to accept £80,000 salary means he is in top 5% of earners

'I am nowhere near in the top five per cent. I am not in the top 50 per cent,' says man who earns more than vast majority of UK citizens

Andrew Griffin
Friday 22 November 2019 11:29 GMT
Man who earns more than £80,000 criticises Labour's tax plan

A Question Time audience member has prompted widespread bewilderment following a diatribe about Labour's tax plans.

The man repeatedly refused to accept the fact that earning more than £80,000 put him in the top five per cent of earners, even claiming that it meant that he was not even in the top 50 per cent.

The remarks prompted confusion bemusement among the Question Time audience and participants, who appeared to struggle to understand the man's denial of widely understood facts about the amount UK residents earn.

During the recording in Bolton, the man volunteered to ask a question of Richard Burgon, a member of the shadow cabinet who appeared on the show representing Labour.

He appeared to be criticising Labour's tax plan, which will see people taxed more on their income over £80,000, which means the change will only hit the top five per cent of earners.

"I'd like to call out Labour as liars," the man said. "I am one of them people that he will tax more, and I am nowhere near in the top five per cent. So I am calling you a liar right now.

"That five per cent is a lie. I am nowhere near that."

A £80,000 salary puts a person comfortably in the top five per cent of earners, according to the latest figures from HMRC. Those figures show someone earning more than £75,300 per year makes more than 95 per cent of other UK taxpayers.

Mr Burgon told the man he was "mistaken", appearing to presume the audience member actually made less than £80,000.

"We are not going to raise income tax for anybody apart from the top 5 per cent of earners," he said.

"I am not in the top 5 per cent of earners," the man said," which led Mr Burgon to point out that Labour would not increase his taxes if that were the case.

"But you are," the man continued. "Because I've read your policy. It's above £80,000. And I am nowhere near in the top five per cent. I am not in the top 50 per cent."

At that point, Question Time host Fiona Bruce stepped in to attempt to clarify the debate.

She made clear that the man earned more than £80,000 and that his argument was that his wage did not put him in the top 5 per cent of earners.

Other members of the audience then heckled the man, pointing out that earning such a wage did in fact meant he was one of the top five per cent of earners.

"I'm not," he said. "Every doctor in this country earns more than that. Every doctor, every accountant, every solicitor earns more than that. That's not five per cent."

Mr Burgon then said he had earned significantly less than £80,000 during his time working as a solicitor. The audience member then groaned, while a woman sitting next to him shouted "rubbish".​

The Labour MP then attempted to move the conversation on to discussion of the Conservative Party's billionaire donors, and other broader issues.

Data from a variety of official bodies shows that earning even £70,000 puts a person among the very highest earners in the country, but research also shows that people tend to refuse to believe they are relatively rich even if they are earning significant salaries.

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