COMMENT: Billionaires bundled out – that’s inflation for you

Friday, December 13, and it's very busy at Heathrow.

Andrew Neil (left) with Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn during a BBC interview on Tuesday
Andrew Neil (left) with Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn during a BBC interview on Tuesday

Billionaires are falling over themselves to escape the country.

Jeremy Corbyn has been elected Prime Minister. In the old days, it would have been millionaires who would have been taxed by Labour until their pips squeaked.

You now have to be a billionaire to be a true capitalist enemy of the people. That's inflation for you.

As the billionaires are hurried through the first class lounge, looking over their shoulders and with their hand luggage bulging with dosh, the incoming government's entire economic strategy is going down the pan.

In funding their radical manifesto commitments, Jezza and John McDonnell have given a special place to Britain's billionaires.

Yet there are not that many of them. You could fit them into one of the smaller airliners and still have seats left to squeeze in some at economy class.

According to Jeremy Corbyn there are 150 billionaires in Britain, but it depends whose figures you believe. Another figure given is that there are 54, of whom only 33 are resident here.

In any event, one Billionaires' Special flight out of here to somewhere like the Cayman Islands, or wherever they hang out, would leave a big hole in Jeremy's plans, unless he clamped down on free movement of billionaires, or tried the alternative tack of being nice to them to try to persuade them to stay and open their wallets.

Meanwhile Andrew Neil is sending out search parties for Boris Johnson. Boris is due to give an interview to Mr Neil, but after seeing what happened to Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon, Boris has suddenly found that his diary is very full.

There is talk that he might not be able to find time to squeeze Mr Neil in.

One spin doctor said that Mr Neil's USP is detail, which struck me as a strange way of looking at questions which ask where the money is coming from to fund billions upon billions of pounds of spending pledges.

After watching the Neil interviews so far, other interviews and the leaders' debates look like showbiz events in comparison.

You can see Boris' dilemma. If he ducks the challenge he will look "frit," as Margaret Thatcher used to say.

But for a Prime Minister whose party is significantly ahead in the polls, he's got nothing to gain and everything to lose. And he could lose big time if he gets a mauling which makes him look like a clueless dumb blond with no grasp of detail. As if!

"Mr Johnson, is it true that you are going to sell off the NHS?" "What ho, yes, indeed, and isn't it something for Britain to be proud of that it has such a fine institution that the rest of the world wants to buy."

Incidentally that was more or less the exact government line when the British car industry was flogged off. (If you think you're driving a British car, believe me, you're not).

One of the highlights of the interviews so far has been the Scottish Nationalist Party actually being asked some pertinent questions.

Nicola Sturgeon is demanding that Britons who voted for Brexit in 2016 have the question put to them again for a "confirmatory" referendum now that a deal to leave the EU is on the table.

If Scotland voted for independence, would she allow Scottish voters to be given a "confirmatory" referendum once the terms of a deal to leave the UK was on the table? Not on your nelly.

Getting back in the EU would be a breeze, as would meeting the EU's financial tests, and there would be no Scottish job losses that she knows of as a result of creating a trade barrier between Scotland and its most important trading partner, the UK.

The party's leader at Westminster, Ian Blackford, is an insufferably holier-than-thou chap who has accused both Theresa May and Boris Johnson of being liars, so another highlight of the week has been a ruling that an SNP election leaflet about Jo Swinson was false, inaccurate, and defamatory.

To rub it in, the ruling came from a Scottish judge, one of those folk the SNP loves to run to so often to get the rest of the UK see the error of its ways.

As for the Jeremy Corbyn interview, the headlines have all been about anti-semitism, but what stuck in my mind was when he was asked, if an incoming Labour government pursued its avowed policy of negotiating a new Brexit deal with the EU, who in Labour would lead the campaign advocating Labour's deal in the referendum that followed?

Jeremy didn't know. But he did know it wouldn't be him.


Is it just me?

I love Saxon hoards, and maybe even Saxon hordes, as much as anybody else. But 10 years?

Until not all that long ago, before sentences were toughened up, that's in effect about what, on average, murderers actually served in jail time – feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

The metal detectorist who got 10 years for failing to declare his discovery of something hidden in the ground that nobody knew about and might never have known about has received a sentence greater than that meted out to people who scar others for life or cause severe physical injury.

I'm sure one reason witches were burned on bonfires is that those watching who thought "that's a bit harsh" didn't pipe up for fear of being accused of being "soft on witches" and being thrown on the bonfire to join them. So I'd better make clear that what the metal detectorist did was reprehensible and deserving of appropriate punishment.

But 10 years?


Call me old fashioned, but in her attack on Boris Johnson's fitness for office Jo Swinson loses me in her argument the moment she uses the c-word.

No, not that c-word, but the other one, which is not as bad but also leaves a bad taste.

There are contexts in which you should expect swearing. If you join the army, or go to watch an edgy comedian, for example.

For an elected public figure to swear in public in a public speech is bad manners as it arrogantly assumes the consent of those listening, and that assumption of consent demonstrates a lack of respect for the audience.

I'm looking forward to the foul-mouthed Jo Swinson's next speech decrying the coarseness of debate in public life and a need to set an example.

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