When I was in my early 20s I worked for an independent TV company in the South West. Half of the staff were talented people from modest backgrounds on pitiful salaries. The other half were rich, overconfident blowhards who didn't need the wage but enjoyed the media prestige. One such individual was a red-faced boy called Jonney. He was a well-meaning, fairly genial sort of toff but, like a lot of rich kids, idolised his parents ("Daddy has had to work jolly hard to get to where he is today"), considered all poor people to be either deserving of their fate or 'chavs' (a distasteful enough word anyway, but one used by the rich as a blatant substitute for 'peasants') and had the general conviction that him being rich was the natural order of things.
On one drunken night in a club, he said to me: "Ed, you know what your problem is? You have a chip on your shoulder." Now, he was probably right. Living on my £13,000 researcher's salary, I'd probably heard enough about his frequent trips to Val d'Isere and his worldview and had grown weary of his relentless brown-nosing of the senior producers. But at the age of 24, I turned to him and said what was on my mind. "Jonney. You should learn to keep your opinions to yourself. You know why? Because you live in a f**king mansion." Generally, I wince when I think of things I said to people in my 20s, but this is one of those few air-punching moments.
People in glasshouses shouldn't throw stones. People in mansions shouldn't say anything. But they do. There doesn't seem to be any point in being rich unless you can tell everybody about it.
The Evening Standard featured a story about "DJ and socialite" (shudder) Jacobi Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe (shudder). It seems he's putting on a party at Koko in Camden. Apparently he comes back from frequent holidays to Ibiza and is "disappointed by the scene here." He's charging £500 per head. "We cater for a slightly more high-end crowd, we cater for guys who are buying tables in Pacha and Ushaia...they're successful, they're hardworking, but they like to let their hair down and have a good time." Ah, I see. Arseholes. That's all there is to the story. It gets a double page. One of his sister's friends may or may not be marrying Prince Harry, but that's it. That's the story. Rich dude organises party. How much do want to bet that the author of that article owed Jacobi a favour or used to play soggy biscuit with him in dorms? Also, if the Metropolitan Police are interested, there's going to be hundreds of grams of cocaine going up the noses of rich kids in the toilets and VIP areas of Koko. You won't be able to arrest any of them, mind. Daddy knows the Chief Inspector.
In his Telegraph column, Boris Johnson pulled another blinder, claiming that we should be thankful to the heroic super rich for providing us with the tax they are legally obliged to pay like everybody else. He actually talks about them as if they were a "put-upon minority." Apparently, the plebs are hurting their feelings and we might scare them away. I don't need to tell you exactly what is wrong with this, in the same way I don't need to tell you why white British men aren't really an endangered species. This is all lobster in a barrel stuff.
Simply put, I don't believe the rich should be allowed in government. All MPs should be means-tested. If they haven't dipped into their overdraft at some point, if they haven't had a sleepless night worrying about how they were to cover the next rent or mortgage payment at least once, they shouldn't be allowed to run for office in the first place. How can government even begin to be representative when you have an unrepresentative amount of rich people in top positions? How can someone who has had no experience of poverty be trusted to make reasonable cuts to welfare? That's not to say that just because someone is born rich, they shouldn't be able to follow a political career. I'm not advocating discrimination here. They'll just have to donate their wealth to charity first.
I'm no Marxist. I don't believe in total wealth distribution. Or rather, I like the idea, it's just I know we'd only go and cock it up. I believe the rich can keep their money (as long as they actually pay a fair share in tax). I don't want to rob them of their identity: They can have their boarding schools, they can twatriotically wave their little flags at The Proms and pretend there's still an Empire, chase rolling car tyres through woods on horseback (or whatever it is they hunt nowadays - probably still foxes), get sunburnt and sloshed at Henley, make Clapham uninhabitable. Whatever. But we shouldn't have to hear about it. The very fact that they exist is embarrassing testimony to how crap our system is. We've had more than 20,000 years of civilisation to sort this stuff out. There is nothing inevitable about our brand of democracy-flavoured Western capitalism. It's just a big, fat accident of history. In the same way, I'm no monarchist. The whole institution is palpably ridiculous, but as long as William makes a show of putting in the baby seat himself and the Queen eats left-over cottage pie once in a while, let them keep their big chairs and shiny hats.
It seems to me that mo money equals mo complacency. The rich can only be rich because the less well-off majority tolerate it, and they would do well to remember that. The super-rich are not a "put-upon minority" but perhaps it would help correct their behaviour if they felt got a taste of it once in a while. Perhaps we might revive the old Watt Tyler flashmob - have the odd uprising and disen-mansion a few Jonneys. Just to keep them on their toes.