A small number of very rich men, and a few women, dominate British companies. Just a few hundred people make the decisions about investment and employment that affect the lives of millions.
These are the people who have queued up to sign the Tories’ letter bemoaning Labour’s decision to raise the level of national insurance.
In truth they are against all taxes on business—and anything else that drains money away from profits, such as a decent minimum wage or union rights.
To take one example—Sir Stuart Rose signed the Tories’ letter. He was appointed executive chairman of Marks & Spencer in June 2008.
He is also a non-executive director of Land Securities plc and chairman of Business in the Community.
That’s typical of the web of interlocking directorships that produce a powerful “magic circle” of bosses.
Nicolas Moreau, another signatory, is the chief executive of Axa UK insurance.
He is also a trustee for the Hedge Funds Standards Board Ltd and director of Winterthur Life UK Ltd which “offers wealth management solutions to the high net worth marketplace”.
Sir Nigel Rudd also signed the letter. Rudd is the non-executive chairman of BAA, but holds an additional seven posts on boards of big business.
These include luxury car dealerships and LLP Capital—a private equity firm.
One study of the directors of Britain’s biggest 350 companies showed that six men were each on the board of five companies, and 15 were on the boards of four companies.
If smaller companies are included then some businessmen have collected 17 directorships each.
These are not only incredibly powerful positions, they are also very well paid.
The boss of Xstrata, Mick Davis, grabbed almost £29 million for 2009.
Davis is one of the most high- profile supporters of the Tories’ campaign against the government’s increase in national insurance.
The Tories say they want the top earners in the public sector to get no more than 20 times as much as the lowest paid.
The Guardian newspaper last week found that bosses at ten of the largest companies who backed the Tories on national insurance would have to take a combined £74 million cut to their pay and bonus deals if the same rules applied in the private sector.