The Rich List

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Some have said I should comment on the Sunday Times Rich List. OK, if you insist. This says most of it:

When the Blair administration came to power in 1997, the wealth of Britain's richest 1,000 stood at £98.99 billion. The £261 billion rise in the wealth of today's top 1,000 represents a 263% jump over the past 10 years.

This explosion in Britain, and particularly London, has seen a sharp rise in the number of billionaires in the UK. This year we have 68 against 54 in 2006 and treble the number of four years ago, fuelled by the surge in the number of foreign billionaires enjoying Britain's favourable tax regime. Only three of our top 10 were born in Britain.

That tax regime is, of course, the domicile regime. That other doyen of the hard left, the Daily Mail has this to add:

By comparison, the rest of the population has seen its wealth rise by only 120% during the Blair years.

And this:

Much of the surge in wealth comes from foreign tycoons lured to Britain by a generous tax regime.

I've looked for a comment that supports the domicile rule that allows this exploitation of the UK. I can't find it right now.

So I'll leave the final word to Larry Elliott of the Guardian:

The argument in favour of of the government's hand's-off policy to the rich is that the wealth trickles down to the rest of us. Mittal and Abramovich buy houses and cars, employ gardeners, lawyers, estate agents, caterers and so on. Better to have them spending their dosh here, in other words, than for them to spend it in New York or Paris. From this standpoint, it should not really matter that the gap between the rich and the rest is getting wider, because all of us are getting richer; moaning about the super-rich is simply the politics of envy.

But as Larry then notes (correctly):

[I]t is wrong to think that a Labour government can ignore the growing gulf between rich and poor that has been allowed to develop on its watch.

For a start, not everybody benefits from the arrival of the super-rich and their money. One reason house prices are unaffordable for those on modest incomes in London is that the market has been distorted by sales at the top. Moreover, the sort of jobs that have been created by all this wealth tend to be low-paid, low-skill jobs such as security guards and cleaners.

No evidence has been put forward to the contrary, ever, as I noted in the Observer this weekend.

So, I tend to agree with Larry that:

Times have changed. Voters don't want to hear the pips squeak. Nor do they want "howls of anguish" [from the wealthy]. They wouldn't mind the odd whimper of discomfort, though.

Except, on reflection I really can't see why paying in accordance with the same rules as the rest of us should invoke any such whimper. But you can bet it would.