According to the latest smear campaign, I’m the new Howard Hughes. Sorry to disappoint you.
By George Monbiot. Published on monbiot.com, 5th January 2011.
Regular readers will know that I have a thick skin. In view of the response I get from the army of trolls and astroturfers who spend much of their time attacking me, I need it. But even by their usual standards of viciousness, the attacks have taken a particularly nasty turn over the past few months. Now a new meme is circulating: that I am a millionaire, living alone in a vast house like a reincarnation of Howard Hughes. I’m painfully aware that if you don’t address such myths, they quickly spread, and become established as facts. So I’m going to take an unusual and risky step, and lay out the extent of my wealth.
It won’t take very long. My only valuable asset is my house, which I bought in 2007 for £278,000. That’s very expensive by the standards of most countries, but not in the UK, where house-prices are ridiculous. In 2010, the average house price in this country was £246,000. Not all of it is mine: the bank owns part of it.
And no, I don’t live there by myself. I have a daughter and two lodgers, who occupy what would otherwise have been the spare rooms. There are no spare bedrooms in my house.
As for the rest of my assets, they consist of the following:
- £8,000 in a savings account, set aside for the taxman.
- A pension, which, being freelance, I pay for myself. It is currently destined, unless I can raise my contributions, to pay out the princely sum of £3,000 a year.
That’s it. I have no stocks, shares, other houses, land (apart from my garden) or other investments. I did have more savings, but I spent them on greening my house.
So, while I’m much better off than the great majority of the world’s people, and better off than most people in Britain, I am no millionaire. I have an ordinary middle-class income and ordinary middle-class assets. Very few people make a lot of money from left-wing journalism, and I’m not among them.