Jeremy Corbyn has humiliatingly ditched an ‘idiotic’ plan for a national wage cap just hours after he proposed it.
The Labour leader said this morning that he supported a legal ‘maximum earnings limit’ as he slammed salaries for footballers and fatcats in the City.
But the veteran left-winger immediately faced calls to set an example by slashing his own pay – which is thought to total around £190,000 a year.
Even his own former economic adviser David Blanchflower weighed in to condemn the ‘lunatic idea’, dismissing it as completely unworkable.
In a speech this afternoon, Mr Corbyn backtracked by insisting he was not seeking to impose an across the board cap. Instead, he suggested that executives at companies with government contracts could be limited to earning 20 times their most junior staff – around £350,000 a year.
He also mooted an extra rate of tax on those paid more than £70,000, saying it could help make society fairer.
The veteran left-winger risked further fury by dismissing suggestions he could back curbs on freedom of movement with the EU.
In another chaotic day that left Labour moderates in despair, Mr Corbyn:
- Undermined an attempt to rationalise Labour’s approach to immigration, rejecting the idea that the current net annual figure of 330,000 is too high.
- Enraged hundreds of thousands of commuters by saying he would be ready to join Southern Rail picket lines.
- Defied his left-wing allies, including Unite chief Len McCluskey and shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, by insisting he will not quit as leader even if his dire poll ratings have not improved in the next year.
- Claimed to have no knowledge of a ‘populist’ relaunch of his leadership that has been widely briefed by his own team.
Mr Corbyn’s speech this afternoon had been intended as an effort to end confusion over the Opposition’s stance on immigration, after bitter clashes between senior figures.
According to extracts briefed overnight, Mr Corbyn planned to say he was not ‘wedded’ to the Brussels club’s key principle of freedom of movement.
But this morning he made clear that he was not willing to put limits on immigration.
He also said that he would accept free movement rules in return for full access to the European single market.
‘If the EU says access to the single market requires freedom of movement, I would say… economically we’ve got to be able to trade with Europe,’ Mr Corbyn told ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme whether he had a number in mind for what level of immigration would be acceptable, Mr Corbyn said: ‘I am not putting a figure on it.’
n the speech Mr Corbyn also mooted an extra rate of tax on those earning more than £70,000, saying it could help make society fairer
Jeremy Corbyn, seen on GMB this morning being presented with a Corbyn pillow by presenters Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid, was hoping to relaunch his leadership today
He added: ‘We’re not saying anyone couldn’t come here.’
When it was delivered, the speech had been edited from the overnight version, and stated that Labour did not ‘rule out’ keeping free movement.
Mr Corbyn was widely criticised for his glowing tribute to Fidel Castro when the former Cuban dictator died last year.
This morning he signalled his determination to emulate one of the regime’s policies, saying he wanted a legal limit on how much people could earn.
‘I would like there to be some kind of high earnings cap, quite honestly,’ he said.
Mr Corbyn declined to say exactly how the mechanism would work, and repeatedly refused to give a level at which it might be set. But he indicated that it would hit the wider private sector, including football players.
‘I would like to see a maximum earnings limit, quite honestly, because I think that would be a fairer thing to do,’ he said.
‘We have to be something that is more egalitarian, gives real opportunities to everybody and properly funds our public services. Look at the crisis in the NHS as an example.’
Mr Corbyn said a pay cap would be ‘somewhat higher’ than the £138,000 he earns as an MP and Leader of the Opposition. The 67-year-old also has pension income of around £50,000 a year – although he has refused to say exactly how much he gets.
He told Sky News: ‘I think it would be somewhat higher than that. I am not going to put a figure on it. What I am going to say is that we are looking at this issue of the disparity of pay within big companies and organisations and do something to try and close that gap.’
The Labour leader took a swipe at the wages paid to footballers, saying: ‘I think, certainly, the salaries that are paid to some footballers are simply ridiculous. I think some of the salaries paid to very high-earning top executives of companies are utterly ridiculous.’
Jeremy Corbyn, pictured wearing his Lenin-style cap alongside his chief spin doctor Seumas Milne outside the BBC today, risked fury by saying he would be prepared to join a Southern Rail picket line as hundreds of thousands of commuters face another week of misery due to striking unions
Mr Corbyn, an Arsenal fan who was presented with a team shirt by Piers Morgan on GMB this morning, said a pay cap should be imposed on players
Jeremy Corbyn, pictured left with his new Corbyn Arsenal shirt given to him by ITV and right, wearing his Lenin-style cap outside the BBC, faced calls to set an example by slashing his own pay – which is thought to total around £190,000 a year
Mr Corbyn, an Arsenal fan, said the team’s manager would welcome a pay cap on players.
‘Arsene Wenger is a man who is an accountant at heart, and I think he would probably like it very much indeed. He would probably like there to be a maximum wage cap on the whole of the Premiership.’
Mr Corbyn said other countries had developed policies on a maximum wage. However, the only state thought to have one in force is Cuba – where it has been set at 20 US dollars a month.
Egypt passed a maximum wage law in 2014 but it was effectively abandoned after mass resignations of bankers and a damaging ‘brain drain’.
By the time he delivered his speech this afternoon, Mr Corbyn had watered down his ideas to cover only the public sector and companies with government contracts.
He suggested he would impose a ratio that top salaries could not be more than 20 times those of the most junior staff in a public sector organisation.
That principle would be extended ‘to any company that is awarded a government contract’, he added.
Addressing the ‘wider point’ of inequality in the private sector, Mr Corbyn set out a list of options.