It’s pointless to envy the super-rich

It's no business of ours what the super-rich get up to, but it's hard not be a little envious.


John Caudwell, the multi-millionaire who founded Phones4u, is building a narrow-gauge railway round Broughton Hall, his Jacobean house in Staffordshire. It's a "strange thing to do", says Christopher Howse in The Daily Telegraph. "There's something very English about the fantasy of travelling on your own train set."

Among those who have built their own railways are Gerald and Mary Askew at Bentley in Sussex, who connected a miniature (7.25-inch) railway to the station at Glyndebourne, and the Reverend Teddy Boston, who built a 2ft gauge railway in the grounds of his rectory at Cadeby, in Leicestershire.

In 2008, Howse recalls, Leo de Rothschild invited the Queen to join him on the five-ton locomotive Mariloo for a mile-and-a-quarter run round the grounds of his house at Exbury in Hampshire. Mr Leo, as he was known, wore his Exbury Gardens Railway cap and boiler suit, the Queen a light overcoat, gloves and a sensible headscarf.

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What's the attraction? Nostalgia? A reminder of the days when grandees built their own stations, and in some case their own branch lines, and when, after death, their bodies as in Churchill's case were brought to their final resting place in their own trains?

"People talk lightly of boys playing with trains and adult railway enthusiasts being overgrown boys," says Howse. "It's deeper than that. The one thing a railway does is take you on a journey. Building your own railwayseems, however fallaciously, to ensure that the train always brings you home."

Why envy the super-rich?

Arguing in The Sunday Times that it's pointless to envy the super-rich, Jeremy Clarkson writes about a friend who is cruising around the Caribbean on his beautiful yacht. After another month there, the friend said, "he would switch to a slightly smaller yacht and sail to the Galapagos Islands for a few weeks". Then he'd take his private jet to Nice to rejoin the bigger yacht for a summer in the Mediterranean, "after which he'd go to his game reserve in South Africa".

People are dismayed by this sort of thing, says Clarkson, but why? True, this man was born into a wealthy family and that makes him lucky. "But what difference does it make to you that he is spending the next six months on holiday?" None at all is the answer. But you have to be superhuman not to feel a stab of envy, whatever Clarkson says.

Ronald Reagan led a remarkable life. Now we learn that he was once a serial womaniser, making more than 50 conquests in his Hollywood days, according to a new book, Love Triangle: Ronald Reagan, Jane Wyman & Nancy Davis.

He was, we're told, heavily influenced by Errol Flynn, his occasional roommate at the Garden of Allah Hotel, which, says the Daily Mail, was famous for its all-night parties. His conquests are said to have included Marilyn Monroe, who, after he had broken a thigh bone in 1948, visited him in hospital "to administer to his sexual needs".

Tabloid money: Ed should not kowtow to our business sheiks

The "barrage of hostility" directed at Ed Miliband by business leaders like "tax avoiding billionaire Stefano Pessina" only shows that the Labour leader is "standing up to the rich and powerful", says Paul Routledge in the Daily Mirror. Their criticism just boils down to the belief that "tycoons must be free to pay themselves as much as they like and fleece the public to their heart's content".

It's "political blackmail" and Miliband "mustn't back down under this tirade of threats from business sheiks, foreign or home grown". Sticking up for working people "will get more votes than kowtowing to those who grow fat by exploiting them".

I have "nothing against top footballers earning higher wages", writes West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady in The Sun. But I am "a little shaken" after seeing a comparison between their earnings and those of the average worker on the BBC website.

Someone on the average wage of £27,000 "would need to work for 555 years to make what Wayne Rooney does in 12 months". Still, even the Manchester United striker can't be immune from envy. While he takes 18 minutes to make "as much as Mr Average does in a year", his former team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo can do this in just 15 minutes. "Don't you feel sorry for poor old Wayne?"

Alan Greenspan "did not always get it right as head of the US Federal Reserve", says Trevor Kavanagh, also in The Sun. But he is "spot on" with his warning that "the great euro gamble was always doomed and will soon collapse". Even though this may cost Europe dear, the UK included in the short term, the good news is that the unravelling of the entire project "will set the global economy free".

It may also have repercussions for the UK's relationship with the EU. George Osborne has confirmed that a Conservative victory in May's general election will lead to "an early poll on Britain's EU membership". Kavanagh thinks that a Greek exit "will provoke a financial crisis". This will "turn the widely predicted IN vote into a resounding OUT".