The Point
Last updated: 14 June 2018. sky thinking for an open and diverse left

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The Politics of Envy?


Bill Mair of Solidarity argues it is time to be introducing a maximum wage for top Council Officials 

“Like Harry Enfield’s Brummie Millionaire character, they don’t accept that £80K is more than enough for anyone, because they need to know they are “considerably richer than you””

How many of us would be absolutely delighted with a household income of £80K pa?

If we had that amount coming into the house, we wouldn’t have money worries; we could pay off our debts, fix the car, mend the windows, even afford a decent holiday for the family.

Now imagine if just one member of the household made that amount of money. In most families across Scotland that would mean easily surviving on just one salary. The other members of the household wouldn’t need to work

Well, Solidarity calls for a maximum wage for Council and ALeO (arms-length organisations, such as Cultural Trusts and Sports & Leisure Trust) officials.

We feel £80,000 is more than enough money for anyone to live on. It is 5x the Living Wage of £16K pa.

Furthermore, if we take Fife Council, the third largest in Scotland as an example, we see they employ 30 people on over £80K, including the Chief Executive, who makes £147K. Delving into our FoI enquiry results, we calculate that they would save OVER 1/2 million pounds EVERY YEAR if they adopted our policy

That’s more than 30 jobs on the Living Wage. That’s a library up and running in just one council.

We don’t have exact figures for the  rest of Scotland but we know that Glasgow City Council pays more than 32 council chiefs over £100K, so the savings in Scotland’s second city would be exponentially greater were they to impose Solidarity’s wage cap.

So, what’s stopping them taking our advice? Do people think they can’t survive on such a paltry amount as £80K when the rest of us are counting our pennies as pay day comes around?


That’s not the problem.

The problem is that the upper-middle classes want to maintain the differential. It’s not enough that they have more than enough to live on: they need to have more than the people below them on the income ladder. If you gave everyone a pay rise so that they now earned £90K but so did everyone else, they wouldn’t be happy. It’s about being better. They need to be able to look down on people to feel good.

It’s the Politics of Envy.

The Politics of Envy is when the rich and middle class complain that refugees have phones so they can’t be genuine. It’s when the Daily Mail or Benefit Street shows us that benefit claimants have a TV or they smoke, so they’re not deserving poor.

Like Harry Enfield’s Brummie Millionaire character, they don’t accept that £80K is more than enough for anyone, because they need to know they are “considerably richer than you”

Smug politicians say that socialists suffer from the Politics of Envy when we complain about the unnecessary inequality in society. They’ve got it the wrong way round.

Bill Mair is the National Co-Secretary for Solidarity, Scotland’s Socialist Movement.

External links:

Bella Caledonia

Bright Green

George Monbiot

Green Left


The Jimmy Reid Foundation

Laurie Penny

New Left Project

Newsnet Scotland

Richard Dawkins

Scottish Left Review

Socialist Unity

UK Uncut

Viridis Lumen

Wings Over Scotland

Word Power Books