Rishi Sunak’s Georgian manor house in the North Yorkshire village of Kirby Sigston (Picture: Paul Buckingham)

As the vast majority of people battle massive food, gas and electricity price rises, the billionaires have more.

The early release of the Sunday Times Rich List on Friday showed Britain’s 171 billionaires collectively own over £684 billion. That’s £31 billion more than last year even though the number is slightly down from 2022.

The richest 350 individuals and families hold combined wealth of £796.5 billion—a sum larger than the total annual production of all goods and services in Switzerland.

Ineos boss Jim Ratcliffe is the biggest riser, with a fortune of £29 billion. That’s up over £23 billion—or £750 a second.

He amassed his fortune by grabbing petrochemical plants from companies such as BP and ICI and “rationalising” them. A typical example was the Grangemouth refinery where, in 2013, he held nearly 1,400 workers and the Scottish government to ransom.

He put the refinery into “cold shutdown” and threatened to keep it closed unless workers signed up to a “survival plan” involving massive attacks on their working conditions and union rights.

Union leaders and Scottish National Party politicians folded, and Ratcliffe grabbed new wealth from the exploitation of workers.

He’s now the biggest private energy operator in the North Sea, profiting from being in the vanguard of the environment-destroying fossil fuel economy.

Ratcliffe is currently in a billionaires’ battle to buy Manchester United football club. A few years ago, Ratcliffe quit Britain for tax-free Monaco, a move expected to save him billions of pounds in tax.

Gopi Hinduja and his family top the list, with a fortune estimated at £35 billion, up £6.5bn, the largest ever recorded in the 35-year history of the Sunday Times rankings.

The family’s property assets include the 6,224 square metre 18th century Carlton House Terrace near Buckingham Palace and the historic Old War Office building in Whitehall.

 On Thursday last week Asda supermarkets announced a pay cut for 7,000 workers and the sack for those who won’t agree. On Friday the Rich List showed that its owners the Issa brothers have wealth of £5 billion, £302 million more in a year or £827,400 a day.
 King Charles’ wealth far exceeds his late mother’s at more than £600 million.

Multimillionaire prime minister ‘well placed’ in cost of living crisis

Despite their wealth dropping to “just” £529m from £730m, Rishi Sunak and Akshata Murty are “better placed than most to weather the cost of living crisis”. That’s what the Sunday Times says—with some understatement.

Their main London home is a five-bedroom Kensington mews house worth an estimated £7 million.  Murty’s non-dom tax status meant she could legally not pay tax on annual dividends she receives from a £690 million stake in the IT company Infosys. It was founded by her billionaire father.

The family moved out of Downing Street after her tax status became clear, and they moved back into their west London home. The couple also own a flat on Old Brompton Road nearby, usually used for hosting friends and family.

In 2015 they spent £1.5 million on a Georgian manor house in the North Yorkshire village of Kirby Sigston to serve as a constituency home.

Estate agents estimate that the 12m x 5m indoor swimming pool, gym, yoga studio, hot tub and tennis court added by the couple have pushed the property’s value beyond £2 million.

The super rich’s ‘hidden-abode of consumption’

A glimpse into the world of the super-rich comes in the Sunday Times’ description of the Bacchanalia venue in London’s Mayfair. “Statues of half-naked women and men and cantering horses fly off the walls” and “almost every dish on the ‘Greco-Roman feasting’ menu can come with extra caviar or truffle.”

But there’s an even more exclusive area. The Sunday Times says, “In one corner of the restaurant is a gold-studded door so thick it looks bombproof. It’s certainly strong enough to keep out ‘civilians’. Behind it lies Apollo’s Muse, the world’s most exclusive private members’ club.

“You cannot apply to join. You have to be invited. And, once invited, you have to stump up a joining fee, rumoured to exceed £100,000, with an annual subscription of £20,000.

“What do you get for all that cash? Access to a shrine to wealth, decorated with frescoes and sculptures sourced by antiquities specialists at Sotheby’s and Christie’s auction houses; a house string quartet (as well as a DJ for late nights); and yet more truffle and caviar, this time paired with Cristal rather than mere Dom Pérignon.”

Writer John Arlidge said, “It is just one example of a new trend among the 0.1 per cent: inconspicuous consumption. The super-rich are disappearing into a private snowglobe world in which they can feel assured no one will judge them or— horror!— tag their image on social media.”

Karl Marx wrote about how it was necessary to follow the capitalists “into the hidden abode of production, on whose threshold there stares us in the face ‘No admittance except on business.’” We also need to hunt them down in the hidden abodes of consumption.

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