Lord Sugar’s promise to leave the UK if Corbyn is PM shows he is oblivious to the interests of the working class

Decades of government by the politicians Sugar has endorsed – Tory and New Labour alike – have left much of London’s poverty untouched. The entrepreneur would do well to see that only a Corbyn-led government can change that

David Osland
Saturday 15 December 2018 16:51 GMT
Alan Sugar says he'll leave UK if Jeremy Corbyn becomes PM

I’m guessing Lord Sugar doesn’t bother spending too much time in Hackney anymore. But as somebody who lives on the streets on which he grew up, I guarantee that the people he left behind badly need the kind of Labour government whose very prospect he so stridently despises.

A Jeremy Corbyn administration, Sugar insisted on breakfast television this week, would be akin to allowing the mother-in-law to drive a Ferrari over the cliff. It’s a telling simile from a man who has obviously come a long way from a part of London where Ferraris are not widely possessed.

Given that he had previously tweeted a photoshopped picture of Corbyn sitting in a car with Adolf Hitler, confirmation that he is not a Jezza fan wasn’t strictly necessary. But this time he went further, pledging to leave the country if Corbyn ever gets to No 10.

The backstory to Alan Michael Sugar’s meteoric rise is precisely the vision of the anyone-can-make-it Britain of the 1980s the Tory right love to sell, painting him as the archetype of the boy from a council estate who started out with a market stall and ended up one of the country’s richest men.

Naturally, Sugar was a staunch Tory back in the day. He was, in his own words, a “tremendous supporter” of Margaret Thatcher, and a backer of John Major in the elections of 1992.

The Blair era changed all that, seemingly overnight. Without even blinking, he endorsed New Labour in 1997, and even took out a membership card.

After giving Labour hundreds of thousands of pounds in donations – nobody will ever know quite how much – he was elevated to the peerage in 2009.

He quit the party in 2015, in protest at what he saw as Ed Miliband’s reversion to Old Labour politics. Corbyn’s leadership has only accelerated his alienation, bring us to his current “I’m outta here” stance.

It’s not about the tax, he insists. Fair enough, as far as can be determined, he pays his way, in a manner that many of Britain’s super-rich would see as laughable. But nobody deserves brownie points for doing what every payrolled employee has no choice but to do.

Sugar’s retorts to his Twitter critics have increasingly taken on undertones of the philosophy of Ayn Rand, blasting many of the hundreds of thousands of Labour supporters who have signed up since 2015 as “jealous non-achievers” and “anti-enterprise anarchist losers”.

These jealous non-achievers will include many of the very people who bought his early personal computers and affordable hifi systems, sending him on the way to his billionaire’s bank balance.

And the dismissal of teachers, nurses, train drivers, shop and office workers, students and pensioners as losers is equally arrogant. Heck, not everybody even wants to drive a Ferrari.

Lord Sugar and I are both East London-born sons of blue-collar dads, from families that included immigrant garment workers. Our contemporary equivalents are still very much out there.

Hackney has become a lot more prosperous in recent decades, not least thanks to the regeneration efforts of its Labour council. But amid pockets of middle-class affluence, it remains the 11th most deprived local authority area in England.

Decades of government by the politicians Sugar has endorsed – Tory and New Labour alike – have left much of its ingrained inner city poverty untouched.

The only thing that will change that situation will be a government resolved to fight deprivation head on, starting with the construction of social housing and going on to introduce other reforms to transform the life chances of local young people, and ensure that older people get the care they need.

Such an outcome is inconceivable under any of the Tories that are lining up to knife Theresa May for the sake of their ambitions. Either it will happen through a Corbyn administration, or it will not happen at all.

If Lord Sugar does not want to be part of those changes, he is naturally at liberty to depart. Win-win, as they say at business school.

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