It’s futile to envy the rich

It’s high time we stopped being jealous of the very rich.

Jeremy Hunt's windfall of £17m from the sale of a company he helped found has stirred up another dose of bad PR for the government. How can a Cabinet so full of millionaires understand what ordinary people are going through? And it is, indisputably, a rich Cabinet. As Mary Dejevsky pointed out in The Independent, there are no fewer than seven senior government ministers and two former ministers in the millionaire bracket. Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, Hunt's nearest rival, clocks in with £8.2m. Cameron, Osborne and Hague come further down the list, with around £4m each.

So what does this say about Britain? What it says, of course, "is that wealth remains very unevenly spread". But that doesn't mean that a wealthy minister is "automatically a bad minister" and out of touch with voters, which is how it's been interpreted. "Mr Hunt, remember, volunteers in an NHS hospital once a week."

In fact, says Dejevsky, you could argue the opposite. While a good deal of the Cabinet's wealth is inherited, by no means all of it is. Hunt made his fortune from being an entrepeneur. (He created a directory of language courses.) So he has a good business brain and has succeeded in something other than politics surely no bad thing. And in Britain, at least, a rich minister "is not by definition a corrupt minister". Indeed, riches may actually "provide a defence against forceful lobbying It is not the wealthy ministers or MPs who are caught out by investigative journalists posing as sheikhs or accepting PR contracts from dubious foreign governments. It is those who would like to be and are none too fussy about how they become so."

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Not being beholden to others is a virtue: Tony Blair's family holidays as a guest of celebrities left a "bad taste" but no one has reason to complain about the Camerons' new kitchen in Downing Street because the Camerons paid for it themselves.

Despite this, most of us will go on disapproving of rich Cabinet ministers as we will of the rich in general. This is especially true of the very, very rich, as Boris Johnson noted in The Daily Telegraph, the people "who give their kids McLaren supercars for their 18th birthdays". Yet we should recognise that it is through these zillionaires' "restless concupiscent energy and sheer wealth-creating dynamism that we pay for an ever-growing proportion of public services". (The top 1% of earners now pay 29.8% of all the income tax and National Insurance received by the Treasury.)

It's high time we stopped wasting "moral or mental energy in being jealous of the very rich. They are no happier than anyone else; they just have more money. We shouldn't bother ourselves about why they want all this money, or why it is nicer to have a bath with gold taps. How does it hurt me, with my 20-year-old Toyota, if somebody else has a swish Mercedes? We both get stuck in the same traffic".

Tabloid money: Don't raise a glass to recovery just yet, says Lord Sugar

"We have heard lots of talk about the economy moving in to a recovery phase, but this means nothing until the average person's pocket starts to feel the effects," says Lord Sugar in the Daily Mirror. "Yes, business confidence is creeping up to pre-recession levels and the unemployment rate has recently fallen. But while the Bank of England Governor says the glass is half full it should also be remembered that, for the other half, there is still nothing to drink."

Employment figures might have picked up, but there are lots of part-time workers who would much rather have full-time jobs, or more hours. The number of people relying on food banks has trebled in the past three years. Yes, "the overall picture isn't as gloomy as it was a couple of years ago. But as long as this government continues to deliver an economy that can only be described as a glass half full, we should hold back on popping any corks and raising a glass to recovery."

"With a £4m fortune about to be boosted to £21m from a business deal, you would think Jeremy Hunt could afford his own paper clips," says James Lyons in the Daily Mirror. "But the mega-rich health secretary instead claimed 5p from taxpayers for just one of them. And the miserly Cabinet minister also submitted expenses requests for an 8p page marker and a 41p black folder."

"Ed Miliband used to be big mates with French president Franois Hollande until the French economy started to tank under the sort of socialist taxes he wants to impose on Britain," says Trevor Kavanagh in The Sun. "He may not wish to draw attention to the Labour-style policies that turned uninspiring Hollande into the most hated French leader ever, with a miserable 15% approval rating But if you wonder how Britain might look with Miliband as PM, just glance across the channel where his vision is being played out in real time."