In today’s article, Oliver Simpkin reacts to Jeremy Corbyn’s plan, announced yesterday on the 10th January, for a maximum wage.
When I woke up on the 10th of January 2017 and rolled over to check the news it was like hearing Jeremy had smacked David Attenborough in the face. But he’d done something much worse. He’d committed the cardinal sin of British politics, he opposed aspiration.
There is much to be said about the nature of Britain’s dreadfully unequal society, of a gap between the rich and poor like the Berlin Wall. For many young people growing up the de-industrialised North the idea that they will have a life better than that of their parents seems a 1 in a million chance, made for someone else, someone who can afford to put the deposit on a good life.
But the fixing of Broken Britain lies not in putting a lid on wages, but putting a rock solid bottom floor on wages. Creating a real minimum wage, raising the lower tax threshold and introducing comprehensive rent controls. This country should see no problem in people enjoying the good life, providing it doesn’t hurt anyone else. CEOs should be eligible for high pay if and only if they are paying good wages to everyone who provides the company with their labour.
A limit inspires no one. A limit at the top convinces no child that they will be able to enjoy the life they wanted. A limit will inspire no swing voter in any of Labour’s target seats that we as a party will give their families a better life. The idea of a Maximum Wage limit speaks to the left’s worst element. That by limiting high pay and good jobs we will sometimes win the votes of the poor dispossessed working classes who are abandoning us for UKIP. Voter’s will see this as the left doing a parody of itself. They’ll see this as the start of a slippery slope that ends up in us being profiled as a bunch of Commies who want to Nationalise your Nan. Fundamentally a limit on high pay is a betrayal of left wing values of progressive taxation. We lock out millions of taxable pounds for no good reason. If we cap high pay we won’t be able to tax the rich, if we can’t tax the rich the state crumbles.
Maybe I missed a memo from the Leadership recently. But Labour used to be for things. Now all I see is press release after press release in which Labour seems to against something, against low pay, against high pay, against Freedom of Movement, against being against the freedom of movement. We can’t carry on like this. We have to be for something. We have to harness the messages that took us to victory. We have to promise to rebuild a New Jerusalem, or to embrace the White Hot Heat of Technology, or invest in Education, Education, Education.
The last two elections have been Labour declaring only we can keep the ship of state afloat not because of our excellent record, or our outstanding values or our hard working Parliamentarians. But because all the other crews are rubbish at running the boat. The voters want an alternative. But they want to see what the alternative will be. Labour must find our city on the hill, our land of milk and honey to lead the British people too. Or Labour must find a funeral director for itself.