Gap between rich and poor in Britain in 2016 is widening daily

Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley gives evidence to the business, innovation and skills committee on wo

Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley gives evidence to the business, innovation and skills committee on working conditions at his company. Picture: Philip Toscano-Heighton/PA Wire - Credit: PA

More millionaire households in Britain are counting their bonds, shares and pension funds today than ever.

Almost one million British households have more than £1 million worth of assets, not counting property and luxury goods. That's 12.4pc more than the year before and a record.

While these million millionaires are counting their cash and planning how to make their next million, another million British people are relying on food banks and charities to survive. Another record.

Existing on food handouts is the new normal for more than a million low-income families, grateful for tins of beans and bags of rice more likely to be donated by other struggling families who think 'by the grace of god...' rather than the millionaires in their mansions.

In the international league table of millionaires, the UK comes fourth after the USA, China and Japan. Not quite on the medal podium but pretty darn good for a little old island. We're good at something, at last.

Moneymaking is worshipped in Britain to a vulgar extent.

Entrepreneurs are revered. The government loves businesspeople for putting the Great into Great Britain. Success is measured by those 961,000 millionaires.

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The million families knocking on the doors of food banks are disregarded. Then, in the so-called 'middle classes', a third don't have even £500 in a bank account to cover an unexpected bill. Hard-up, hard-squeezed wage slaves have to borrow.

It's a fascinating snapshot of the growing financial disparity of 2016 Britain. The government says it is determined to move to a higher-wage society but, instead of the gap between rich and poor closing, it's widening daily.

Billionaire Mike Ashley, founder of Sports Direct and the 22nd richest man in Britain, admitted to MPs this week that some of his workers were paid under the minimum wage.

Sir Philip Green, once lauded as King of the High Street, is facing criticism following the collapse of BHS with the loss of 11,000 jobs with loyal workers finding themselves on significantly reduced terms and a reduced pension. Yes, enterprise is wonderful for those making the money, but not everyone can be an entrepreneur. They need workers to build their success.

In Ashley's company, some staff earned less than the minimum wage because they had to stay for long security checks in their own time. The picture painted was one of staff terrified to call in sick. One pregnant woman was at work so close to her due date that she gave birth in the toilet.

It's draconian, retrograde and has been described by Labour as a 'modern day sweatshop'.

As Ashley spoke, Sports Direct chief executive David Forsey's wife Stacey was wrapping up her first season in the Real Housewives of Cheshire.

As some workers took home less than the minimum wage, she showed off her £6m mansion, discussed spending more than £1,000 on a jacket and enjoyed private jet flights to Paris for Fashion Week. They are as out of touch with those helping them to make their money as Marie Antoinette was with the French people in the 1780s.

The self-made rich display a much harder and dismissive attitude to their workers than hereditary rich, who, historically, have been benevolent and looked after their workers.

The self-made convey the arrogance that, if they pulled themselves up by their bootlaces, anyone can. If their workers don't want to do the job, there will always be someone who will.

And those making the money, running the businesses, are held as shining examples of entrepreneurship and national success. Enterprise is now taught in schools with children taught that success is measured by money. In my book, a nation's success is judged by more than a million people needing food handouts. As my grandmother would say, too many people know the price of everything but the value of nothing.