- BECAUSE if I’d been born much smarter, more hard-working, or just into a well-to-do family, I too would be rich. And I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be giving my money away (or much of it) to poor people. Not because I’m especially mean but because I’m like most other people and I’d find all sorts of excuses/reasons why I needed to spend it on me. Most people don’t give much money away. There are exceptions but we probably never hear about them because as well as being rich they’re also modest.
- Because I believe rich people making themselves poorer doesn’t make poor people richer. It’s not what you have but what you do with it that counts.
- Because I’ve been listening to Jane, Duchess of Northumberland, on the radio. She has used all her imagination, vision, intelligence and verve to create the fabulous gardens at Alnwick Castle. And because Ian says she wouldn’t have been able to do it if she didn’t have money. Precisely. But she did/does have money and she spent it wisely and well and worked hard to achieve a fantastic dream which now everybody can share. She has incorporated a ‘poison’ garden where young people can learn about drugs.
- Because I’m not a hypocrite. I recognise that compared with about 90 per cent of the world population I am rich. I’ve worked hard and I’m quite clever and I run, with Ian (my even cleverer and just as hard-working husband), a bed and breakfast business. People come and stay with us, we look after them and they pay us. We don’t accommodate homeless or needy people for nothing. But guess what? We probably could if we were better people.
- Because although I don’t personally know any landed gentry I see no evidence that they’re worse stewards of the land than commissars. It’s what one of my theology tutors used to call ‘the human condition.’ Capitalists, communists, conservatives, socialists even liberal democrats – we’re all selfish, greedy and out for what we can get: some more than others, but all to some degree. It’s called survival. And, also to some degree, we’re all altruistic and kind. But being a socialist doesn’t make you a good person, nor being a capitalist a bad one. There are nice landowners and nasty union shop stewards. Being one or the other isn’t what defines your character.
- Because I have known quite a few clever people who’ve been to university and read law or medicine or some other worthy subject – and then gone into the City to make money and be bankers (greedy or otherwise). And quite a few of them stopped being bankers once they’d made some dosh and started doing things like teaching or social work. And when they were bankers they also worked long hours and – who knows? – probably did lots of good things as well as the bad ones.
- Because I have an acquaintance (no more than that – Ian once borrowed his swimming trunks and swam in his pool, but that’s another story) who was until recently one of the biggest wigs in Goldmann Sachs. He’d been to an inner city comprehensive in the North East. He was very clever and extremely hard-working and went into banking. He was (almost certainly still is; I just don’t see him nowadays) a thoroughly kind and generous person. He had a wife and two children and four houses and once told me that no matter how much money he made he never took any of it for granted. But he was grateful for the security it gave him: as a child he’d known a lot of insecurity and that’s what had driven him to succeed.
- Because I have three quite rich brothers. Sometimes they’re a pain in the neck, and most of the time I’m sure they think I am. They laughed at me when they saw me on a ban the bomb march in Sheffield when I was 14, but secretly were, I think, quite proud of my distinctly socialist leanings (which, surprise surprise, I no longer have: except towards Ian). But one thing’s for sure: not one of them was given a penny piece by our parents or even very much encouragement. They are all over 60 (one’s over 70) and they still work hard for their living and have done since they were about 10.
- Because I have known some truly horrible socialists (and some truly horrible conservatives, but I seemed to meet more socialists, nice and otherwise) whose politics seem so often to be rooted in envy. My children and Ian’s children will hate me for this because I think they’d all describe themselves as socialists. Which, oddly enough, I’m quite proud of. I don’t know why but I’m very relieved they’re not Young Conservatives. I am glad, however, that I no longer feel the need to buy a Guardian to wrap my Telegraph in. When you’re old you can please yourself and nobody gives a damn.
- Because I have a a little house in Oxford which I let out to a nice young couple who’ve been there four years and are about to sign up for a fifth. (Correction: Ian-the-socialist and I have a little house in Oxford). The tenants pay a decent rent and in return they get a lovely home. We also pay a letting agency and when we die, if not before, the house will be sold and our lovely, socialist children will get a share of the proceeds which knowing them they will share with others because they’re nicer than I am. But in my book it still makes us – Ian and me – capitalists. If we had 10 houses in Oxford we’d be rich capitalists. But we didn’t work hard enough or we weren’t clever or ambitious enough so we have to make do with one. Oh yes – and an enormous chapel in Wensleydale. Poor us.
So there we are