I remember being in New York once on St Patrick’s Day. I had forgotten that the great Irishman was such a big deal over there with the streets packed with bands, shamrocks and celebrating fun-lovers.
Well, I wonder if there are similar scenes over there today. As you all know, no doubt, today is St. George’s Day. The patron saint of Russia, Palestine, Ethiopia and, oh yes, England.
Well I just looked out of my window here in Sussex, England, for signs of celebrations and all I can see so far is a shaven headed builder with a yellow plastic bucket.
Hang on a minute, at least my garden is celebrating. With all that talk of green shoots showing the end to the recession, I nearly missed the sight of my first rose bud.
After some wild celebrations round the rose bud, well after looking at it and brushing off an aphid, I thought I would look for more excitement on this, England’s national day.
And I found it, almost immediately in my morning newspaper.
Yesterday was Budget day, usually a depressing experience and less than interesting most of the time but we are now in a period of economic crisis and the budget, announced by our dour Scottish Chancellor Alistair Darling, was full of financial pills in the spirit of the times.
Most of the headlines focused on him rising the rate of income tax from 45% to 50% for everyone earning more than £150,000 a year.
This, along with various other measures aimed at members of the 2% of the population lucky enough to earn this amount, would cost the lucky few, on average, £80 a week.
Now, I would have thought that was pretty avoidable to those on big incomes, people like (Sir) Fred Goodwin, the failed head of the Royal Bank of Scotland who is drawing a massive pension of over £700,000 a year at the age of 50.
But, so I read, this is too much for some – even in this moment of crisis. Even though taxes are, after-all, hate them as we all do, a way of contributing to the welfare of the nation.
Take Hugh Osmond, for example. He is the multi-millionaire owner of Sun Capital, the pub and pizza restaurant chain. When he heard about the new percentage rise he said: “I don’t feel happy about being driven out of the country that I love, but there comes a point when thousands of pounds a week becomes compelling.”
So, in other words, up yours, England! Thanks Hugh.
Maybe we should say that to our sons and daughters too.
“I love you dearly, son, but there comes a point when thousands of pounds, well hundreds of pounds, or even tens of pounds a week becomes compelling.”
Where is that spirit of St. George now?
It is fine as long as it doesn’t cost me too much say those very comfortably off folk who would rather leave the land they love than contribute to its pretty fair tax system. A system, no matter how much we might complain, which runs all those important things like hospitals, schools, pizza restaurants, woops, sorry Hugh.
Maybe if St. George can’t inspire Hugh and his like in this time of national crisis then that other great man celebrated today might.
William Shakespeare, Happy Birthday mate, knew a thing or two about patriotism, even if some of our restaurant owners and high financiers don’t. Maybe he can remind them of their noble heritage:
“And you, good yeomen,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding – which I doubt not,
For there is none of you so mean and base
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot.
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry ‘God for Harry! England and Saint George!’
We may not be about to face the Battle of Agincourt, but there is a crisis, no question, and it would be so good to know that those who can afford it really could think that this country was worth just a bit more of their abundant cash.
After-all how much money does anyone need to live a perfectly comfortable life?
£150,000 a year seems plenty good enough I would have thought, even with a 50% tax rate.
Hugh Osmond and anyone else of your mean-spirited persuasion, don’t just leave when the going gets tough. We may not be quite a sinking ship yet but you certainly come across as one of those proverbial rats leaving it.