|The New "Aristocracy"||Commentary by John Tyndall|
The traditional institution of aristocracy has always had its critics - particularly on the left. To be fair, it has also had its weaknesses and manifested its abuses. Nevertheless, it has provided Britain and certain other nations with a great many admirable and highly accomplished public servants - rather better ones, in fact, than most of these nations possess in this era of equality and "democracy".
But have aristocratic wealth, ostentation and privilege gone away? As far as Britain is concerned, they have not. These things have simply changed hands. We now have a new aristocracy. Just what sort of people comprise it we can get a picture of by examining the facts and figures concerning those who today boast the highest incomes and live in the most lavish mansions and palaces
In a survey published in The Mail on Sunday (November 19th) it was stated that black boxer Lennox Lewis is Britain's highest earner this year, with £40 million - yes, £40 million in one year!
Not a captain of industry, mark you, not any of the people who have made real contributions to the nation's prosperity (such as it is), but a boxer. But that's not all.
Among the top twenty of the nation's earners there are in fact eight businessmen, but of these one (Paul Raymond) is not an industrialist but a property developer. Another (Robert Edmiston) is a car dealer. Another (John Hales) has made his fortune out of Tellytubby toys. Mike Grabiner, the boss of Energis telecoms company, made most of his money when he cashed in share options last March.
One among the top 20 is a writer, J. K. Rowling - but no Dickens or Jane Austen she. She has made her pile out of the Harry Potter series. Two are actors: Sean Connery (£13 million) and Anthony Hopkins (£12.4 million).
But here's the part that'll floor you. No less than seven of the 20 biggest earners have grown rich through the pop music industry! Elton John comes top with £27.4 million, Mick Jagger next with £12 million; then there's Keith Richards (£10 million), George Michael (£9.5 million), Robbie Williams (£9 million) and Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood (£8 million each).
Two of these (that we know about!) are queer. Elton John needs no further introduction in this regard. George Michael, it may be remembered, was arrested for indecent exposure to a male in a public toilet in the United States. Far from this harming his career as a pop idol, it seems to have enhanced it! Michael is seldom out of the headlines as the "star" in some show or other.
Not included in the richest 20 is the former Beatle George Harrison, who hit the news in October when some nutcase invaded his property and attacked him. The incident put the focus on the property itself: a palatial mansion in Oxfordshire of vast proportions which might once have been the home of an earl or duke. These people, who no doubt would sneer at the lavish lifestyles of such former pillars of society, are determined not to be outdone when it comes to demonstrating who are the new masters and mistresses of the realm!
It all boils down, one supposes, to what the Germans call the zeitgeist - the priorities of the age and the rewards it bestows according to its ideals of service and merit!