Marx and the super-rich: Groucho or Karl?

Nothing feeds my belief that the super-rich should pay more tax than to read the opinions of the super-rich themselves and their advisers.

Through my letter box in north-west London drops a very glossy and expensively produced magazine called London Property. As you can imagine, any property magazine circulated in north-west London is going to be full of pricey property. But this magazine is something else. Many are so expensive they are POA (price on application, or ‘if you need to ask the price, you can’t afford it’. But as random examples there is an ‘elegant penthouse apartment’ at Fulham Reach for £8.95m; a 5 bed house in Golders Green for £2.65m; a Belsize Park apartment for £2.9m; a detached house in NW6 for £3.8m. And on and on.

None of this is a surprise. But the magazine contains ‘opinion’ columns by people who are apparently agents in the luxury market. One complains about ‘politically motivated’ politicians (what else would they be?). I quite liked his starting point: ‘we have a bunch of incompetent sixth formers from Eton running the country’. But then it sinks. ‘It is extraordinarily disingenuous that Karl Marx/Ed Miliband is advocating a Mansion Tax’. Evidently this is because Ed would have to pay it himself because he lives in Primrose Hill (personally I tend to trust people on higher incomes who advocate higher taxes for themselves). Our hero is full of insightful views, such as: ‘Few realise that if the rich get poorer the poor get poorer as a consequence’ and the Mansion Tax will ‘suffocate the ethos of working hard and getting the rewards we deserve’. But Karl Marx forgodssake? I think he knows not what he is talking about.

Another correspondent also reverts to Marx. Perhaps it’s a trend? He says: ‘Karl Marx made valiant attempts in his socialistic models and teachings to try to make everyone equal’ and berates ‘this insatiable obsession with the politics of envy’. And the Mansion Tax again, which would ‘drive a coach and horse through this vital income sector that we require as part of the wealth of the nation…. the housing market above £2m will collapse’. I think he’s confused Karl and Groucho.

As the evidence grows that the London housing market for ordinary people has been severly damaged by the capital becoming the property safe haven for the world’s super-rich, and as people on low incomes are punished for daring to live in former working class communities like Pimlico and Covent Garden or for having a spare bedroom, the views of these gentlemen should inspire us to redouble our efforts to get social justice.

One of them has to stretch back to Denis Healey’s remark about squeezing the rich until the pips squeak ‘and other left-wing nutters’ to make his point. But, to quote the bard, he should realise that the times they are a-changing. It is no longer left wing to say: the global super-rich caused this crisis, and they should pay for it.

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