BRITAIN should have a national maximum wage to cap the grossly-inflated pay of top company executives, Jeremy Corbyn has suggested as he came under fire from the Scottish Tories, who claimed if he won the Labour leadership, he would "run up the white flag on our Union".
The left-winger, whose lead in the race for the Labour crown shows no signs of abating, decried the growing levels of inequality in the workplace and made clear that if he became the Leader of the Opposition he would push strongly for action to reduce the grotesquely high levels of executive pay compared to the wages of ordinary workers.
But the London MP came under fierce attack from Ruth Davidson after his comments in The Herald in which Mr Corbyn declared he was “a Socialist not a Unionist”, that he had not participated in the independence campaign at all and that joining forces with the Tories to defend the Union had been a “huge mistake” for Labour.
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"These comments show clearly that a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Party is preparing to run up the white flag on our Union,” declared the Scottish Conservative leader.
"They are also a complete betrayal of the two million people, including many thousands of Labour supporters, who voted No last year because they believe in the strength and solidarity of our United Kingdom,” added Ms Davidson.
Her comments came as the “bad blood” within the Labour leadership contest continued to flow with Andy Burnham decrying the negativity of the Yvette Cooper camp after it called on him to stand aside so that the Shadow Home Secretary could challenge Mr Corbyn head on.
But Ms Cooper, who today will set out her own agenda for tackling inequality in Britain, appeared to declare a truce, urging her aides to stop briefing against Mr Burnham, stressing how the contest’s focus should be on "policies and ideas for the future" rather than on internal sniping.
For his part, Mr Corbyn warned his opponents that they were underestimating the "huge levels of public support" for his campaign, saying it represented Labour’s “greatest opportunity...to reconnect with people across this country”; the London MP has already claimed he is the candidate best-placed to win back thousands of Labour voters in Scotland, who have switched to the SNP.
In an exclusive interview with The Herald, Mr Corbyn expressed his concern about the inequality of the growing pay gap.
He said: “There should be an audit of pay levels in every organisation as well as there should be an audit of the gender pay gap in every organisation, which there isn’t in small companies, only in large companies. There ought to be a level of a maximum,” declared the MP for Islington North.
“Why is it that bankers on massive salaries require bonuses to work while street-cleaners require threats to make them work? It’s a kind philosophical question really. There ought to be a maximum wage. The levels of inequality in Britain are getting worse.”
His comments were made after it was reported that last year the pay of the bosses of Britain’s top companies continued to move away from the rest of society with the average FTSE 100 chief executive earning 183 times more than a typical UK worker; in 2010, it was 160 times higher.
Using figures from the country’s largest firms, the High Pay Centre pressure group found in 2014 that the average total pay for a company boss rose to just under £5 million; meantime, the average annual income in Britain was £27,200.
The London MP cited the UK and Scottish capitals as examples of where pay inequality was conspicuous, particularly in relation to housing.
“Look around central London, you see working class communities being priced out; it’s the same in Edinburgh...
“Inner London is becoming a bit like Manhattan, gentrified...We’re creating massive problems for ourselves. We need a rational, interventionist housing policy in Britain; all over the UK.”
Mr Corbyn did not elaborate about how a national maximum wage would work in detail but one option could involve the creation of an independent high pay commission; similar to the low pay commission, which has recommended the level for the national minimum wage. This would propose to a Corbyn-led Labour Government what level a maximum wage should be set at in relation to average workers’ pay.
Today, Ms Cooper will commit to introducing a new Equalities Act if she became Prime Minister, aimed at, among other things, tackling the gender pay gap.