secondAs these are dark days in a gloomy winter, ravaged by Covid and paralyzed by Brexit, let me introduce you to a couple who will lift your spirits. Frances Connolly and her husband, Patrick, were living in a rented townhouse in Moira, County Down when, on New Years Day 2019, they won the EuroMillions jackpot of £ 114.9 million, one of the highest payouts in the US. history. Since then, they have participated in one of the largest lottery draws in history, according to Camelot, the lottery operator.
Frances describes what they did: first they made a list of more than 50 family members, friends and neighbors; They paid off mortgages, bought houses, insured futures. They then returned to Hartlepool, where their daughters live and where they had raised their children. They bought a large 5 acre bungalow outside the city and set out to give away the rest by permanently depositing it with two charities, one for Hartlepool and one for Northern Ireland.
Warm, funny, and deeply committed to solving other people’s misfortunes, Frances has a natural disgust for luxury and senseless waste: “I’m never going to be part of the jet set.”
Their first trip was to visit a daughter in New Zealand, but they didn’t travel first class, too surprised at the price. Looking for a house to buy, they were horrified when real estate agents bombarded them with castles and stately homes with vast tracts of land. Patrick now runs three small plastic plants in Teesside, investing in new recycling projects, eliminating single-use plastics, and intending to employ as many people as possible.
His charities have given away hundreds of tablets, laptops and Wi-Fi dongles for young caregivers, school children, and nursing home residents whose family members cannot visit. He has a project of packing clothes, pajamas and toiletries for the homeless, especially refugees and asylum seekers with nothing. Finding struggling and unsustainable small charities, he has brought together community kitchens and local food vendors, all looking for the same supermarket surplus, in a consortium working together; he uses the weight of his charity to bond with others in the northeast of England. She is stubborn and entrepreneurial, while delighting in wrapping hundreds of children’s Christmas toys. He looks at politics with indignation. “Brexit, absolute fucking madness! The world is a small town, so how, in God’s name, could a country of this size be able to stand on its own? Yes, she’s also a longtime Guardian reader.
As he joins the very rich, in his 54 years he has seen a gigantic increase in the differential between high and medium wages. In 1999, the average salary of the CEO of the FTSE 100 of 1.2 million pounds 59 times average earnings of all full-time workers (£ 17,803). But the latest figures analyzed by High Pay Center show that by 2019 this differential had raised to 119: 1.
A recent egregious example is Charlie Nunn, recently robbed from HSBC for the main job at Lloyds, who is online for a maximum pay package of £ 5.6 million. Lloyds, like many companies during Covid, boasts that it is taking a reduced package compared to its predecessor. But what is a stratospheric pay drop, when so many have sacrificed so much?
Looking at extreme riches, this week the wealth tax commission shows what could be done with an unexpected 1% tax on millionaire households: it would raise £ 260 billion. That staggering sum shows how much wealth so few have. With 2 million families living in poverty, it is not surprising that public opinion supports a cap on obscene pay. A Survation survey finds 54% would favor a maximum salary. Almost 70% would support salary limits of £ 100,000, £ 200,000 or £ 300,000.
The High Pay Center is asking employees to be aware of pay gaps within their workplace: Repeated surveys show how little most people know about pay inequality, with everyone, high and low pay, wrongly imagining that your income is closer to the middle than it is.
Frances and Patrick Connolly’s phenomenal victory alone equates to about 20 years of a top executive’s ordinary salary. His luck is comforting and newsworthy, while CEO kleptocracy remains an everyday occurrence. His worldview lives in another universe to the hermetically sealed social isolation of the hyper-winners. I’d like them to invite Frances to talk to them about what it means to have so much money and what to do with it – she says she would take the opportunity. But as she knows, charity is not an answer to inequality. Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and George Soros do admirable good, but their philanthropy is no excuse for runaway mega-wealth that should be limited, taxed, and spent on priorities set by democratic governments.
Digsmak is a news publisher with over 12 years of reporting experiance; and have published in many industry leading publications and news sites.