The U.K.’s opposition Labour party has taken aim at the country’s billionaires, saying that the super-rich and big corporations have bankrolled the ruling Conservative Party in return for tax breaks worth almost £100 billion ($129.6 billion).
Releasing a report entitled, “In the pockets of the few,” on Monday night, Labour said its research showed that one-in-three of the U.K.’s billionaires had “bankrolled” Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party.
It said 48 of the country’s 151 billionaires have donated more than £50 million to the party since 2005, with 10 billionaires giving money since Johnson declared his leadership ambitions in May (at the start of a leadership race within the Conservative Party).
The report comes as the Conservatives and Labour vie for votes ahead of a snap general election on December 12 amid continuing parliamentary deadlock over Brexit. The Britain Elects tracker poll shows the Conservatives with 39.9% of the vote with Labour on 29%, ahead of the third-largest party, the anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats, with 15.4%.
Left-wing Labour and the Conservatives, at the centre-right on the political spectrum, stand far apart on their approaches to the U.K. economy but both have vowed big spending pledges to a British public that has been largely critical of austerity measures over the last decade.
Labour said in its report that the Conservative Party had favoured corporations and the super-rich in its policies, saying the party had “handed out” £86 billion through successive cuts to corporation tax and smaller amounts with cuts to capital gains tax, inheritance tax and cuts to income tax “for the very wealthiest.”
“While these super-rich individuals are gifting tens of millions of pounds, the Conservative government is on course to hand out almost £100 billion in tax breaks and corporate giveaways by 2023/24,” the report said.
Responding to the report, Conservative Treasury Minister Simon Clarke said in a statement that “Corbyn’s Labour have revealed their true colours” and that only the Conservative Party would “get Brexit done and keep our economy strong.”
“They want to stop people from passing on their family homes to their children after they die. Rather than helping people to succeed they want to take away your family home in higher taxes. Their plans would not hit billionaires – they would overwhelmingly hurt hard pressed families,” he said.
“This analysis by Corbyn’s Labour shows why they just cannot be trusted with the economy. The top 1% are actually paying a greater share of taxes under the Conservatives than at any time under the last Labour government. Tax receipts from businesses are also at an all-time high – meaning more money for public services.”
The research came ahead of a speech by the Shadow Finance Minister John McDonnell in London Tuesday in which he laid out Labour’s plans for the economy, lambasted billionaires’ wealth.
“If someone gave you £1 every 10 seconds, it would take you more than 300 years to become a billionaire. Someone on the national minimum wage would have to work 69,000 years to get paid £1 billion and a newly qualified nurse would have to wait 50,000 years,” he will say, according to pre-released excerpts of the speech.
“No one needs or deserves to have that much money, it is obscene.”
“It is also obscene that these billionaires are buying access and tax breaks to Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party,” he will state.
Speaking to business leaders at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) on Monday, the leader of the Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn, promised to work for an economy that “works for everyone.”
He also rejected the accusation that he is anti-business, calling that “nonsense,” and said his party would set up a sustainable investment board and 320,000 apprenticeships for young people.
Labour pitches itself as a party “for the many, not just the few” but accuses the Conservatives of being a party for the super-rich.
The Labour message might hit home with a lot of British voters, with one poll showing that anti-billionaire sentiment is high.
A poll by YouGov published on Saturday showed that over three quarters of the U.K. public want to raise taxes for the richest of the rich — but more than eight in 10 believe they’d just find a way to avoid paying.
The poll showed that although 35% say it’s possible to truly deserve entry into the U.K.’s billionaire “club,” half (51%) believe that nobody should have a billion pounds under any circumstances.