His name, as they say, is Michael Caine. And he’s not a happy bunny. The 76-year-old film star has revealed in colourful terms that he has had it, and will leave Britain if taxes get any higher.
“The Government has taken tax up to 50 per cent, and if it goes to 51 I will be back in America,” he said at the weekend. “We’ve got 3.5 million layabouts on benefits, and I’m 76, getting up at 6am to go to work to keep them. Let’s get everybody back to work so we can save a couple of billion and cut tax, not keep sticking it up.”
By Iain Martin
The Telegraph (UK)
Hear, hear. If Sir Michael didn’t have one already, I would say: give that man a knighthood. Other wealthy types have also denounced the 50p tax hike; although it is highly debatable whether the thought of Lord Lloyd-Webber fleeing the UK strengthens or weakens the case of those fighting the increase. But it is the intervention of the star of Zulu, The Italian Job and Hannah and Her Sisters that should remind us what is really at stake here, as the Labour movement slips back into its default mode of waging class war.
Yesterday, the Government unveiled its latest suicidal proposals, this time to force public bodies to sign up to reducing inequality. As if they won’t have enough to deal with in a recession, now they must become agents of Labour’s obsession with social engineering.
Unsurprisingly, this idea comes from Harriet Harman, old girl of
St Paul’s and niece of the Countess of Longford. So often, the zealots most interested in pursuing crazed progressive policies are upper middle-class and went to the best independent schools. These public-school Lefties do not understand why the egalitarian approach to education doesn’t work. Middle-class children are more likely to have parental support behind them and can still prosper in comprehensives – but it is the aspirational poor who suffer most in such schools, where the compelling pressure, from peers and neighbours, is not to be too clever.
Miss Harman has spent a lifetime not understanding this argument. Now, her latest proposals on equality, coupled with the 50p tax on success and aspiration, confirm that her party has officially lost the plot. Old Labour is again obsessing over how to level down, or iron out inequalities, rather than raise up.
Maurice Joseph Micklewhite – Caine’s real name – definitely knows all about raising himself up. Indeed, he strikes me as the embodiment of a very British kind of social mobility.
The star of Get Carter was born in Rotherhithe, south-east London, the son of a charlady and a fish market porter. He passed his 11-plus, winning a scholarship to a grammar school, left school at 16 and saw action in the Royal Fusiliers in the Korean War. From a job as a messenger, he worked his way into acting and became one of the sharpest stars of his generation – a crisply tailored contemporary of other working-class boys who smashed a social glass ceiling in the 1960s.
Not everything on his CV since has been beyond reproach: his appearances in The Swarm or Jaws: The Revenge spring to mind. But even on the subject of his bad films he is entertaining. “I have never seen the film,” he said of one flop. “But by all accounts it was terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.”
Everything Sir Michael has made, he made by his hard work. That his story is much more difficult to imagine in contemporary Britain demonstrates how far backwards we have slid. Privilege is once again becoming the key that unlocks the right doors. Access to the best schools is increasingly limited to the affluent, which in turn leads on to the best universities and the plum places in the professions.
If we any have sense left as a society, we should look at the lives of Sir Michael and others in his generation and ask how more of their modern-day equivalents might best be encouraged to strive and succeed. Yet that is not where the Government is headed.
Labour is going back to the dreary politics of class strife, using anger with bankers as an excuse. The abandonment of aspiration signifies intellectual decay. Indeed, there was never that much of a commitment to it: despite increasing public spending by 50 per cent in real terms, Labour was only fitfully interested in the idea of social mobility. In decades to come, Labour MPs only just born will ask how so little was achieved with so much money.