Money isn’t funny in this man’s world
DESPITE living in the UK, which is one of the conditions for being considered for inclusion, it was not much of a surprise to learn that I did not feature on the latest list of the 1,000 richest people in the country. To qualify, your yearly earnings have to be at least £70billion, a figure I am marginally - alright, significantly - shy of. Still, like most people I glanced at the list of names whose personal fortunes probably amount to the gross national product of several small countries out of curiousity and partly so I could say “well, they might have all that money, but are they happy?” (Answer: in most cases, probably) and “there’s more to life than material possessions” (true but I wouldn’t say no to an Aston Martin.) I can’t say there were too many surprises. The discovery that The Queen has a rather healthier bank balance than me, as does the Duke of Westminster, Roman Abramovitch, Richard Branson, Robbie Williams, David Beckham and Simon Cowell is not what I would characterise as a shock. It was, however, interesting to learn that when this list was first published in 1989, three-quarters of those on it had inherited their wealth while the latest list revealed nearly 80 per cent had made their money themselves. I don’t begrudge them their wealth; nor do I begrudge the fact that they often use what they have acquired to become even wealthier. But what I don’t accept is those who argue that the rest of us somehow reap an unquantifiable economic dividend as a result. According to Ernst and Young tax expert Patrick Stevens, the UK’s relatively generous tax regime means “it’s income we wouldn’t get a sniff of otherwise.” Really? I admit I never studied economics but I’ve never heard Evan Davies expound on the BBC news how this particular feudal model works, with wealth somehow percolating down from Russian oligarchs, members of the aristocracy to “ordinary” people and judges on talent shows. And of course it overlooks the fact that plenty of others invest - through pension funds, for example - not just billionaires. Perhaps I wasn’t around when the chance came up to “get a sniff” of this largesse when it was distributed although obviously I’ll make sure I am the next time Simon Cowell or Mr Abramovitch throws a few £50 notes about. Although I don’t suppose I’ll snaffle up enough to catapult me into next year’s list.