Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Blair's Real Legacy Is a Tax Bolt-Hole for the World's Fat Cats

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Blair's Real Legacy Is a Tax Bolt-Hole for the World's Fat Cats

Article excerpt

ONE of the long-running jokes I have with my old friend Philip Beresford is that someone should do a Poor List. It's only half in jest because every year his tome The Sunday Times Rich List lands, it seems more out of touch with the real world than ever.

So it is with the 2007 offering. Yesterday's ranking confirms that under Tony Blair, elected on the promise of a fairer society 10 years ago, the rich really have got richer: the combined worth of the wealthiest 1000 has soared from [pounds sterling]98.99 billion in 1997 to just shy of [pounds sterling]360 billion - an increase of 263%. It shows no sign of stopping - in the past year alone it has climbed almost 20%.

I spoke to a billionaire last week and asked if he would be rushing out to get a copy of the newspaper to read his entry. "Nah, we're making so much money that the figures are out of date." The phrase "I spoke to a billionaire" is telling. It used to be something to be a millionaire. Not any more. Then came "multi-millionaire". There are plenty of those now, too. Then there was the odd billionaire - Duke of Westminster, the Sainsbury family.

Today, there are 68. These, don't forget, are just the ones we know about.

There are others who stay well hidden. The way things are going, it can't be long before we have our first trillionaire.

But will he (forget the she - in money-making in Blair's Britain, despite the hype surrounding the Blair Babes, women still lag far behind) be one of ours?

Only three of the top 10 - the Duke of Westminster, Sir Philip Green and Jim Ratcliffe - were born in the UK. Of the top 10 again, exactly half - the Hinduja brothers, Hans Rausing, John Frederiksen, Roman Abramovich and Britain's richest man at [pounds sterling]19 billion, Lakshmi Mittal - enjoy non-domiciliary tax status.

This then, as he enters his last days before announcing his departure, is Blair's legacy: a nation where the gap between rich and poorer has widened to an alarming degree; and one where

many members of the richest set pay virtually nothing in tax (they only pay tax on their income in the UK, not their worldwide earnings). …

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