1,000 richest Britons worth £547bn, 13m others now in poverty, half in work

Dirty Money Filthy Rich, Lazarides Gallery LondonMurdoch’s Sunday Times has just published its Rich List for 2015 which shows that the richest 1,000 persons based in Britain now have wealth valued at £547.1bn. That works out at an average level of wealth of nearly £550 millions per person, though there are wide variations between the threshold level of £100 millions at the base to £13.2 billions at the top (someone called Len Blavatnik).

These are not only staggering figures, but perhaps even more staggeringly, they have more than doubled since the financial crash in 2009. In that year the richest thousand had £258 millions, but they now have 112% more. They include 117 billionaires with a total wealth of £325 billions, nearly £3 billions each on average. Indeed Britain apparently now has more billionaires per 100,000 of the population than any other country in the G20 group of the world’s biggest economies, more even than the US. The number of billionaires in Britain has almost trebled in the past decade: there were only 40 in 2005. Continue reading

It’s time for politicians to stop swooning before billionaires

Tony Blair and rupert murdochIf you ask people who runs Britain today, they will almost certainly focus (correctly) on the banks, media and corporate bosses, plus the police, lawyers and accountants who are their agents in protecting their supremacy. Politics and finance have become one, with business leaders trooping into No.10 as regularly as heads of state. There’s nothing so calculated to get Whitehall into top gear as the allegation that something is ‘bad for business’.

Politicians dote on business people; they swoon before billionaires like Murdoch, Branson and Green. Sometimes they appear to run after them like teens begging them to autograph their body parts (like Blair before Murdoch’s court at Hayling Island, Australia, in 1996). Since all these lords of the universe have now been humiliated by the recurring scandals of the last decade, what at this election should be the order of the hour is reining in these powers that have so besmirched the face of Britain and exerting a firm democratic imprimatur and control over their activities to change the structure of power in Britain which has been too long delayed. The politicians should take advantage of the weakening of these former oligarchs to establish a new Magna Carta. Continue reading

Osborne’s budget message: government of the rich, by the rich, for the rich

'Gideon' OsborneOsborne’s shamelessness knows no bounds. Having generated the most polarised society in class terms since the Edwardian era, he has the gall now to be focusing Tory electoral appeal on a brazen tax giveaway confined to the extremely rich. It’s an outrage that with only 50 days to the election he’s now giving notice that, if re-elected, the Tories will cut the inheritance tax bill on properties worth up to £2 million by £140,000. This will be overwhelmingly concentrated on estates in London and the South-East, when at the same time there are now a fifth of the population living below the official poverty line of around £240 a week (depending on household size). For Osborne it is the southern propertied middle classes that matter, not the northerners who have been forced out of their homes in which they may have lived for 30 years or more by the hated bedroom tax. Continue reading

Performance-related pay is a myth to excuse greed

UNEQUAL PAYIt has been reported today that Bob Dudley, chief executive of BP, received a 25% rise in total pay and bonuses last year even though shareholder returns deteriorated and company profits fell back significantly because of the halving of the world price of crude. According to BP’s annual report published yesterday, his overall pay rose from £6.6 millions to £8.25 millions. The report said “Bob Dudley’s remuneration is closely linked to performance(!). The pay he received in 2014 reflects BP’s delivery of strategic targets over the past 3 years”. This is nonsense. BP doesn’t say which strategic targets they had in mind, whether they were picked at the outset or selected now to give the best retrospective impression, how exactly they were measured, etc. Continue reading

If you think bankers are greedy and self-interested, you should meet fund managers

GreedThe latest incomes data shows bankers still getting obscenely high remuneration and whopping big bonuses, yet they are being overtaken by another group within the finance sector. Fund managers have now overtaken the pay and bonuses of bankers, though they’re keeping it very quiet. They say there’s no need for customers (i.e. the investing public) top know about their pay because all the overall data about running a fund – its cost, performance, etc. – is already published. But this evades the role which fund managers should be playing, but are not playing, under free-markets anything-goes contemporary capitalism. Continue reading