Boris, the super rich and pay inequality

Boris is using this position as Mayor to help the elite reshape London - regrettable consequences.

Boris Johnson cycling

Jenny Jones AM is leader of the Green Party on the London Assembly and Green Party Mayoral candidate for 2012

Nobody could be surprised by Boris Johnson’s latest column defending bankers and the rest of London’s super-rich elite.

He’s an expert in baiting the left on subjects like bankers’ pay, then switching his ground to promote the living wage. But he isn’t just a newspaper troll. He is also the Mayor of London, and he is using this position of considerable power and influence to help the elite reshape London, with real world consequences.

Did you know, for example, that the only time the Mayor has travelled to Brussels in person was to lobby for the hedge funds?

His advocacy of the wider financial services sector is incredibly one sided, without any consideration of their role in the wider London economy.

He has talked about their tax contributions, but not their tax avoidance and subsidies. He calls them the engine of our economy, but doesn’t seem too concerned that (so the New Economics Foundation tell me) only 6p of every pound deposited with RBS/Natwest goes into British businesses. He has lobbied against the bankers’ bonus cap, the Financial Transaction Tax and a number of other modest reforms of the banking industry.

His advisors, his research, the evidence he draws on are all aligned with the needs of the elite he defends.

Where does the Mayor imagine the 1 per cent make all of their money, and hold all of their wealth? What about the mis-selling scandals, the continued exploitation of workers in shakily built factories, the naked profiteering of the big six energy companies? He doesn’t want to look at the damage done by an unequal society to London’s economy and Londoner’s living standards.

The 1 per cent lobby against a mandatory living wage, saying it would mean job losses, while their pay rose 14 per cent in a year. Yes, some of that extra pay will go towards their sizeable tax returns. But one result of 700,000 Londoners earning less than a living wage is a £700 million annual subsidy from taxpayers to employers. Why not cut out the taxman and share the profits more fairly in the first place?

The Mayor champions a voluntary living wage, but in the same breath defends the right of employers to pay their employees poverty wages.

The 1 per cent are driving up property prices in the capital, exacerbating a housing crisis that has no end in sight. London is already the most unequal city in the developed world, with the wealthiest tenth of the population amassing 273 times the wealth owned by the bottom tenth. Most wealth at the top lies in pension funds, investments and property.

This is bolstered by taxpayer subsidies like Help to Buy and housing benefit, policies the Mayor supports that avoid the root causes of our housing crisis and instead help ordinary people scrape by to the benefit of the 1 per cent.

The Mayor is their champion, supporting the construction of incredibly expensive tower blocks that are often build on the site of demolished council housing.

What’s really infuriating is that the Mayor actually has a good news story on pay, but he doesn’t give it any attention.

I’ve tracked the difference in pay between the highest and lowest paid staff in the different bodies the Mayor oversees – City Hall (the GLA), Transport for London, the Metropolitan Police Service and the London Fire Brigade. Since he became Mayor, pay has actually become slightly more equal across all bodies except TfL. This is both because top pay has slightly dropped and bottom pay has risen.

Pay multiples

I wouldn’t go so far as to say everything has been rosy in these organisations over the past five years. But I doubt the Mayor would say it has been a disaster. He just doesn’t want to look at whether he can replicate this move towards equality across London at large.

Why can’t he get on and make London more equal, a place where getting a job really does pay enough to build a life on, rather than a city where more and more of us feel like we are just sweated by a global elite?

3 Responses to “Boris, the super rich and pay inequality”

  1. TM

    Boris is a Right wing rich privileged semi aristocrat and represents people with all or some of the same attributes. What is now happening to London and the poor and squeezed middle has been happening to the rest of the country for yonks. Now that people are waking up to the fact that the agenda for the privileged and wealthy is to make more wealth for them at the expense of everyone else not privileged, there is a growing sense of alarm. Why did, and why do, ordinary non privileged Londoners and others vote in people whose interests lie only with the very rich and the very rich privileged? When we get to the bottom of that, we may begin to get to the bottom of the other problems in this country. Somehow we have it knocked into us one way or the other that upper crust privileged people are the people we should be looking up to and revering, when these are the last people we should be voting for and looking up to if we want a fairer and more economically equitable, and a democracy that works for the majority and not just an already privileged and wealthy elite. When we begin to challenge this notion of inherited privilege, and the complete absurdity that it is, we might begin to move forward. Otherwise, debate moot points all you want and accept that your great grandchildren will be ruled and lorded over by their great grand children.

    First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

  2. nodbod

    They also control the press and enough of the media to terrify people with the notion of “socialism”. The example that I use with people is the energy companies. For the most part they are held by overseas companies, so effectively your energy bills are paying people abroad. Also imagine a situation where a cheap source of energy did become available. The energy companies are duty bound to maximise shareholder returns so they would either not develop the energy source or they would increase their unit price to maintain increased shareholder returns. Whatever, the cost of energy to the consumer would still be expensive. This is why David Camoron’s pledges around the “cheap” gas obtained by fracking would never reduce consumer bills, no matter how cheap the raw materials or production; the companies are duty bound to increase shareholder wealth and they cannot do that with reduced prices.

    I read a short time ago that many wealthy people have already got their solar panels an even the odd wind turbine and so, once again, they can afford to offset price rises that the rest of us can only dream about. I am sorry but I have lost the reference.

    Thing is, if we had an enlightened government, then they would be equipping all houses with solar panels to offset the cost of energy to the country as a whole but that is not capitalism.

    On the wealthy elite, I cannot for the life of me understand why anyone (of the 99%) would ever vote for them but they have got the greatest PR in the world. I have never understood why or how someone is worth 200 times more than someone else working for the same organisation. I know that it is a self-perpetuating myth, I suspect that you do, too. One suggestion that I favour would be a fixed multiplier from top to bottom in an organisation. Figures that I have seen elsewhere are 15 – 20%. This could be written into law tomorrow. If the boss wants a 20% pay rise then fine but he/she has got to find that revenue for a payrise for every person in the company. If they are as good as they claim then it is not a problem. I suspect that they would immediately outsource just about every other job but it would be relatively easy to word the law such that anyone shown to derive their income from that organisation (yes, even outsourced cleaning staff) are entitled to a minimum of 20% of what the boss gets.

  3. TM

    Ah yes, the dread word ‘socialism’; how that is rammed down all the little Englanders throats, the fear that things might get better for more people and more people might benefit rather than just an elite of super rich super privileged folk we all must kowtow to and tug the forelock and be ‘ever so ‘umble’ to and almost hold up as the perfect exemplars of humanity, nay, even divine beings! Note the sarcasm.
    Seriously, we need merely to start questioning this notion of privilege at every turn, I suggest by asking why they always seem to get wealth and power, and then we need to vote for parties that are not filled with privileged people. We need to pro actively live in a democracy and that means that this country is also for us and not just the posh rich and the semi aristos. But, it should be done peaceably and with the intent to change society gradually and with respect to all. I mean that sincerely. I hold no grudges against people born to wealth and privilege, even if they bear grudges against the rest of us. Gandhi merely sidestepped their hate, deflected it and brought down the whole load of hypocrisy that was the British Empire. It’s over, and it’s time we started to live like that.
    Keep writing and spreading the message. And believe in fairness and democracy for all.

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