Keir Starmer visits the London Stock Exchange with Rachel Reeves (Photo: flickr/Keir Starmer)

The richest people in Britain have plundered wealth under the Tories. They have stashed cash away in their offshore accounts and stuffed their bank accounts with the proceeds of cuts in income tax, corporation tax and other handouts for business.

The Tories want to keep it like that, with no tax rises for the rich and more bonuses for businesses.  

Instead of confronting that rancid agenda, Labour leader Keir Starmer said last week he is “doggedly determined” that people should make money. He insisted wealth creation—mainly money for bosses and chief executives—would be Labour’s “No 1 mission”.

Setting the tone for his election campaign, Starmer said he is “relaxed” about people making money. It echoes remarks made by ultra-Blairite Peter Mandelson, an architect of New Labour, who said in 1998 that he was “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich”.

Labour has said there will be no rises in income tax or National Insurance if it wins the general election. But spending cuts have not been ruled out.

In March, Labour’s Rachel Reeves likened herself to former Tory prime minister Margaret Thatcher—known as the Iron Lady—by declaring she is the “iron” Shadow Chancellor who is “relaxed about people being rich”.

When Starmer was standing for Labour leader in February 2020, he pledged to “increase income tax for the top 5 percent of earners”. It was a bid to win votes from those who supported Jeremy Corbyn.

In 2022 he vowed to reinstate the top tax band for those grabbing more than £150,000, mocking “super-rich Rishi Sunak”.

But seven months later in 2023, his tone changed. He made another of his notorious U-turns, breaking yet another promise to the Labour members who elected him. He said “I don’t want to raise income tax for top earners.”

But the case for taxing the rich—and combating the very system that produces billionaires–is clear. Even a key New Labour adviser, who worked for Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in Downing Street, said last weekend that there is an “overwhelming economic and ethical case” for Labour to impose higher taxes on wealth.

Patrick Diamond, professor of public policy at Queen Mary University of London, worked for Blair between 2000 and 2005 and for Brown from 2008 to 2010. Together with his colleague Colm Murphy, a lecturer in British politics, he calls for higher tax on wealth and to tax capital gains—rich people’s profits from selling shares and second homes—at the same rate as income tax.

Even very meagre measures would raise £10 billion a year.

Billionaires on the up

The richest 52 families in the UK have more wealth than the poorest half of the UK population—33 million people. The 52’s combined wealth is £795 billion–roughly the equivalent of giving every family in Britain £41,000.

It’s more than all the goods and services produced each year in Poland, a country with a population of almost 37 million people

Over the last 35 years, the wealth of the 200 richest families has grown from £42 billion to £711 billion, a 15 percent annual increase in real terms.

There are now 165 billionaires in the UK–there were 11 in 1989.

Multi-millionaire Rishi Sunak entered the Sunday Times Rich List in 2022 due to the joint wealth shared with his wife, Akshata Murty.

Murty has a stake in the IT company Infosys, co-founded by her billionaire father, NR Narayana Murthy.

The Sunaks increased their wealth last year by £120 million to an estimated total of £650 million. They are now wealthier than king Charles, whose wealth rose from 600 million to £610 million over the same period. Much of Charles’s wealth has already passed to his heir, prince William.

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