Give me Jimmy Savile over Tamara Ecclestone any day

Ostentatious shows of wealth didn’t detract from the late Sir Jimmy Savile’s generosity.

Ostentatious shows of wealth didn’t detract from the late Sir Jimmy Savile’s generosity.

Is there anybody more tasteless than Tamara Ecclestone? With her haut-chav dress sense, cupboards stuffed with once-worn Louboutins, garages full of Ferraris and, on Friday, a TV programme dedicated to her absurd life, Ecclestone is surely the airbrushed face -- actually, the entire embodiment -- of unacceptable capitalism.

Like Peter Mandelson, I can do filthy rich, and I have no problem with people like Ecclestone having huge piles of inherited dough. What gets me is the ostentatious consumption and the showing-off. If I were as rich as Ecclestone, I'd keep quiet about my gewgaws, and certainly wouldn't parade them on TV or in some Desmond glossy.

It's not only vulgar, but deeply insensitive to those who are paid badly, if at all. Besides, someone should tell Tamara that stealth wealth is far more attractive than her über-garagiste bling, but then maybe she's not trying to impress the likes of me. Her type of man probably wears those heinous blue suede slipper-shoes with crests on them, and wears £1,000-jeans and an untucked white shirt and smokes the type of fags you can only buy in Monaco.

In his way, the late Sir Jimmy Savile was just as tasteless, with his chunky gold jewellery, massive cigars, heinous tracksuits and insistence on the latest Roller or Bentley. On the surface, Sir Jimmy was certainly Tamara's kind of guy. But that's the point - it was just the surface. Sir Jimmy's appearance was purely an act, all for show, part of the brand.

The point about Sir Jimmy was not the bling, but the giving. According to his obituary in the Times, Sir Jimmy was said to have given away 90 per cent of his earnings to charity. Thanks to the £12m he raised, the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital was established. For many years, Sir Jimmy worked one day a week as a hospital porter at Leeds Infirmary. He was a regular visitor to Broadmoor, and even headed a group that helped to run the hospital.

"But what about all my charity work?" I can hear Tamara screaming. "I'm an ambassador to PETA! I was creative director of the 2010 Great Ormond Street F1 party! I'm active with the Dogs Trust!" Chief among Tamara's charitable achievements is her campaign against -- wait for it -- foie gras.

According to her website, and this is hard to read without laughing, Tamara has "personally contacted all the teams and sponsors involved in Formula 1 motor racing to advise them about this cruel food and to ask them to pledge never to serve it at events". Wow, way to go Tamara! Well done! And such a pressing and important issue for you to throw your wealth behind!

If Tamara really wants to live her life well, she should take a look at Sir Jimmy. You're allowed your bling and your cash if you really give to charity, and I don't mean accepting twinkly ambassadorships and going to fundraisers.

What Tamara should do is to take off the Manolos and the slap, tie her hair back, and quietly and anonymously work in a local hospital or hospice.

Maybe she already does that, in which case, I apologise and I shall give up foie gras. But somehow I doubt it.


Photo: Getty Images
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Autumn Statement 2015: whatever you hear, don't forget - there is an alternative

The goverment's programme of cuts is a choice, not a certainty, says Jolyon Maugham.

Later today you will hear George Osborne say there is no alternative to his plan to slash a further £20bn from lean public services by 2020-21. He will also say that there is no alternative to £9bn cuts to tax credits, cuts that will hit the poorest hardest, cuts of thousands of pounds per annum to the incomes of millions of households.

But there is.

As I outlined here the Conservatives plan future tax cuts which benefit, disproportionately or exclusively, the wealthy. Suspending those future tax cuts for the wealthy would say, by 2020-21, £9.3bn per annum.

I also explained here that a mere 50 of our 1,156 tax reliefs cost us over £100bn per annum. We don't know how much the other 1,106 reliefs cost us - because Government doesn't monitor them. And we don't know what public benefit they deliver - because Government doesn't check.

What we do know, as I explained here, is that they disproportionately and regressively benefit the wealthy: an average of £190,400 per annum for the wealthiest.

And we know, too, that they include (amongst the more than 1,000 uncosted reliefs) the £1bn plus “Rights for Shares Scheme” - badged by the Chancellor as for workers but identified by a leading law firm as designed for the wealthiest.

Simply by asking a question that the Chancellor chooses to ignore - do these 1,156 reliefs deliver value for money - it is entirely possible that £10bn or more extra in taxes could be collected without any loss of  public benefit

To this £19bn, we might add the indiscriminate provision - both direct and indirect - of public money to wealthy pensioners.

Those above basic state pension age enjoy a tax subsidy of up to 12% on earned income.

Moreover, this Office for National Statistics data (see Table 18) reveals that the 10% of wealthiest retired households - some 714,000 households - have gross pre-tax and pre-benefit private income of on average £43,983. Yet still they enjoy average cash benefits from government of £11,500 per annum.

Means testing benefits to exclude that top 10 per cent of retired households would save £8.2bn per annum. And why, you might wonder aloud, should means testing be thought by the government appropriate for the working age population, yet a heresy for retired households?

Add in abolition of that unprincipled tax subsidy and you'll save even more. 

So there are alternatives. Clear alternatives. Good alternatives. Alternatives that enable those with the broadest shoulders to bear some share of the pain. Don't allow yourself to be persuaded otherwise.

Jolyon Maugham is a barrister who advised Ed Miliband on tax policy. He blogs at Waiting for Tax, and writes for the NS on tax and legal issues.