There can be no doubt that the nation’s revulsion against awarding a £10,000 tax break to the top 1% of earners and no less than a £40,000 tax cut to 14,000 millionaires was dramatically sharpened by the fact that it was funded by depriving 4.5 million pensioners of £83 a week. But even if that had not been so (a politically explosive mistake that Osborne will learn to rue), the sheer provocativeness of giving away such huge sums of money (probably nearer to £1bn than the absurdly inaccurate £100m claimed, to ward off the political flak) would have made this at a time of austerity unforgiveable.
But of course that’s just the point – the Tories now feel they can get away with anything – not just handing a tax break to 300,000 people on more than £3,000 a week, but also to chief executives of big companies on an average £86,500 a week and even to Bob Diamond, head of Barclays, on £307,600 a week!
We know a little about these people, not only from the annual Sunday Times Rich List (next one out in 2 months), but also from the Forbes Cost of Living Extremely Well (CLEWI) index. From the latter we learn a little about the lifestyle and unusual tastes of these people. What turns them on apparently is a Russian sable coat for $240,000, a facelift for $18,500, a thoroughbread yearling racehorse for $319,300, a Sikorsky helicopter for $14,800,000, an arrangement of flowers changed weekly for six rooms for $98,100, or a year’s tuition at Harvard for $56,600 (interestingly, only half the cost of flower arrangements).
Why give a huge tax break to people for whom money means nothing at the expense of pensioners for whom losing £1.60 a week, as one pensioner put it, means a great deal? Even the rich admit that if you own £100m you’re in the ‘seriously rich’ class, though to get into the Sunday Times Rich List you need a cool £430m. How can it be conceivably justified to give such a bung to people who’re so gold-plated they won’t even notice it, yet that same bung would double the pension for an individual pensioner for whom it would be nirvana?
The Tories regularly attack the principle of universal benefits on the grounds that it’s giving child benefit, fuel allowances, etc., to duchesses. Yet here they are giving a big tax break to billionaires, the international jet set, the Duke of Westminster and – to half the Cabinet.