Jeremy Corbyn has been called “out of touch” for saying he does not consider himself wealthy, despite earning more than five times the average UK salary.
Announcing a plan to boost funding for the arts on Friday, he said he wanted to battle the elitism that suggested only the wealthy could enjoy “highbrow” culture”, in a speech reported in The Times.
“I hate the elitism (that says) only the wealthy can go to ballet, only the wealthy can go to opera, only the wealthy can go to Glyndebourne, only the wealthy can enjoy what’s termed highbrow music,” he said.
“I don’t consider myself highbrow or wealthy, but I still enjoy some aspects of classical music. I want everybody to have that attitude and that same experience.”
The basic annual salary for an MP from April 2016 is £74,962. The leader of the opposition is also entitled to an additional salary of £62,440 on top of this, taking Corbyn’s total earnings to around £138,000 a year.
The average UK salary in 2015 was less than a fifth of that, coming in at £27,271 according to the Office of National Statistics.
Corbyn also owns a £600,000 home and will draw “the gold-plated pension offered to MPs, which will pay out at nearly £50,000 a year” when he retires, the Daily Mail reported.
Critics of the Labour leader slammed the remarks, made in Edinburgh yesterday.
Some called Corbyn a “hypocrite”, while an SNP spokesperson responded: “People listening to Jeremy Corbyn will be very surprised to hear him declaring that his six-figure salary does not make him wealthy, another example of how out of touch Labour is with Scottish voters,” according to the Telegraph.
Buzzfeed’s special correspondent James Ball commented that if a Conservative politician made the same remark they would be “crucified”.
Corbyn’s comments came as he launched his arts policy and said he was disappointed to have lost the support of Labour’s leader in Scotland, but ruled out a split if he continues as national party leader.
He pledged that a Labour UK government under his leadership would restore £42.8 million in cuts made over the past six years, The Press Association reported.
Mr Corbyn insisted “the Scottish party is not going to split off from the UK party”, and said he would continue to work with Kezia Dugdale despite her support for his rival Owen Smith.
He also delivered his 37th public address in the leadership contest at a Scottish Labour for Corbyn event in Dundee on Friday night.
He said: “This city gave us so much trade union solidarity and also gave us a lot of comics over many years.”
He added: “Just over a year ago, in May 2015, Labour lost a general election.
“I was sad and devastated by that. We lost an awful lot of seats in Scotland at the same time.
“That loss was devastating, that loss was tragic.”
He continued: “We have set our face towards a future of justice, a future of greater equality, a future of better prosperity for the next generation.
“We don’t want to leave any community or any part of the country behind.”