There’s been a fair amount in the news in recent days about the one per cent of the population who are in key positions in this country’s government. They are those who are in order to ‘protect their families’ have been storing their money offshore so that their children will not starve as a result of their parents paying taxes.
Alan Duncan had to be heard to be believed. I wonder if he lives in a parallel universe. If so, I don’t want to go there. I happened to be trying to sort out a payment regarding the money we still owe for Mother’s carers while Dave was answering questions in the House about his own financial affairs, so the contrast between his tax evasion and our obligation to cough up every penny for services that fell short of what Mother needed felt pretty stark.
Now you may not have heard Alan Duncan. Well, lucky you. And if you don’t want to know, stop reading now, because I am about to quote him.
“Shouldn’t the Prime Minister’s critics really just snap out of their synthetic indignation and admit that their real point is that they hate anyone who’s even got a hint of wealth in their life?” he asked.
“May I support the Prime Minister in fending off those who are attacking him, particularly in thinking of this place?
“Because if he doesn’t, we risk seeing a House of Commons which is stuffed full of low achievers, who hate enterprise, hate people who look after their own family and who know absolute nothing about the outside world.”
It’s not difficult to see that for Duncan, anyone who hasn’t become a millionaire by fair means or foul is a low achiever. Wealth is his morality. Which make me pretty immoral, but nowhere near as immoral as those struggling with high rents and zero hours contracts. Low achievers By Duncan’s definition. Or maybe just people whose opportunities to achieve have been restricted by circumstance.
The thing about the One Per Cent is that it applies across all the professions. As human beings we are attracted to people we perceive as being like ourselves, and I don’t just mean attracted as in life partners. Increasingly, when you start in acreer you are expected to work without pay. The term internship has slipped into our culture and vocabulary. Who are these people who can work without pay? Ah they’ll be part of the one per cent; people whose parents or trust funds support them; people who will still get to go on holiday as undergraduates rather than spending vacations doing temporary work.
When I qualified as a journalist, the only people in my class who went onto full time paid posts were those whose parents or partners were supporting them financially. Poor as the pay was then, it’s worse now. I can’t afford to work as a freelance journalist from home anymore. It simply doesn’t pay the bills; the fees are derisory. Look at our leading journalists, see where they were educated, and across the newspapers of all persuasions the majority come from moneyed backgrounds. They may write radical pieces now, but few grew up on council estates.
So the One Per Cent dominate our media, our government, any profession where you need to get experience. My neighbour’s boyfriend has qualified as a psychologist, but he needs *experience* before he will be considered for a post. All the *experience* going is unpaid.
We’re back to the argument about pupils from fee paying schools dominating the acting world. Don’t get me wrong, I am not disputing that Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston or Emma Watson are good actors, but they have the cushion of economic security to get them through the lean times while they try to get the break. There are plenty of people from less well off backgrounds with talent that simply never gets discovered because they have to abandon their dreams and get work of any kind to pay the bills.
And as the One Per Cent dominate the across the board, it’s easy to start to believe that they dominate because they are somehow better, somehow superior to the rest of us, and not that most are there because they have had better opportunities.
We are profligate with the real wealth of our country which is the potential of each person here. We don’t hide that wealth off shore, we just stifle opportunity in the country for it to flourish. But when the One Per Cent evade paying taxes they effectively maintain a status quo where that will continue, because the taxes they avoid paying are the taxes needed to benefit the whole country, and allow everyone to have as Alan Duncan puts it “a hint of wealth in their life”.