There is no such thing as real poverty in 21st Century Britain, Lord Alan Sugar has said. The business magnate, who progressed from humble beginnings, pointed to ownership among the working classes of smartphones, large televisions and white goods, which would have been considered unimaginable luxuries to the inner city communities of his childhood.
Lord Sugar, 68, made his remarks during an interview with The Times, saying: “Who are the poor these days?
“You’ve got some people up north and in places like that who are quite poor, but they all have mobile phones, being poor, and they’ve got microwave ovens, being poor, and they’ve got televisions, being poor.
“Compare that to 60 years ago. If you really want to know what poor is like go and live where I lived in Hackney, where you didn’t have enough money for the electric, didn’t have a shilling for the meter.”
Now said to be worth £1.4 billion, Lord Sugar started life as the fourth son of an East-London tailor; the family lived in a council flat.
In his autobiography he recalls attending secondary school wearing a uniform made by his father, to save money. His father “had this worry about money falling out of my pockets,” so created exceptionally deep trouser pockets for his son’s short trousers, with the result that “they looked like they were falling down, and this tempted the older lads to pull them down”.
He also recounts how his family were unable to afford a party for his Bar Mitzvah, so his friends parents told them to drop him. They did.
He became a multi-millionaire at the age of 31 with his consumer electronics company Amstrad, and now admits that he never looks at the price of anything, “apart from planes and boats and things like that, and also the price of fuel is interesting, as far as boats and planes are concerned.”
He doesn’t know the price of a pint of milk. As for a dozen eggs “If you asked me to guess, I would have said a fiver, a tenner. A loaf of bread? No idea.”
Critics will likely say that he is out of touch, therefore, with the poor of modern Britain. A report by the Debt Advisory Centre earlier this year found that more than 4 million people have had their electricity cut off “regularly” after failing to pay their bills. 15 percent admitted to having it cut off every few months and six percent said it happens weekly.
A further 4.7 million people on pre-pay gas meters say they often cannot afford to top it up. The West Midlands was the hardest hit, with 63 percent regularly struggling to top up their meter.
During the wide ranging interview, Lord Sugar, a former Labour party member slammed Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, saying “I just don’t see how the Labour party are going to get into power again in the next 10, 15 years, if this is the way it’s going to go. It’s out of the ark, this Robin Hood stuff, stealing from the rich to give to the poor. If they ever did get into power then people like me would just give up and leave the country.”
And of the Ukip-supporting columnist Katie Hopkins, who first found fame as a contestant on his show The Apprentice, Sugar says “She’s chosen a niche in the market for herself. She’s become Piers Morgan on steroids, if there could be such a thing.”