By 1979, there had been steady progress ever since 1918 in making Britain a more equal society. No doubt, this was connected with the fact that in 1918 all men and most women were allowed to vote and in 1928 finally all adults were. In 1979, with the election of Mrs Thatcher the process went into immediate and dramatic reverse as shown by the chart below which relates to the income of the top 1%.
In 1979, for example, the then boss of Barclays Bank earned £87,000, which was 16 times more than the average wage. Last year the boss of Barclays Bank, then Bob Diamond, received a total pay package of £17.7 million. This was 830 times the average worker’s wage. Since 1979 something similar has happened to the pay of the bosses of all large UK companies.
These bosses are not entrepreneurs who have taken large risks to build up businesses. They are hired managers who sometimes need to become involved in public relations. Their salaries are no more justified now than they would have been in 1979.
Margaret Thatcher once said her greatest acheivement was “Tony Blair”. It is Blair who cemented her legacy so that Thatcherism is still central to British politics.
The 1% have reason to be grateful to Thatcher and Blair, not only for their riches but also for making them feel good about themselves. Thatcherism – in an inversion of most moral teaching - holds that to be rich is, in and of itself, virtuous and deserving of respect.