With hindsight maybe it was silly for me to bleat, ‘As everyone knows, the Johnsons are neither posh nor rich’ on Newsnight just before my older brother published his tax returns showing the impressive sums he’s made in journalism and publishing. I can only imagine how the antlers of rival 12-point stags such as Niall Ferguson and Andrew Roberts must have drooped as they calculated how many copies the full-time Mayor and MP and bestselling ‘popular historian’ must have shifted to earn royalties running into the hundreds of thousands.
Having heard him toot about his eye-watering advance for his forthcoming Shakespeare, I felt only admiration that he paid almost a million pounds in tax over four years, and this is what I should have said on Newsnight. My parents never had a bean, but they did give us an education. I find it hard to care or mind about what people inherit. What they earn is far more interesting. The recent race to publish personal tax returns has become an ‘I’ll show you mine’ game, not a true exercise in transparency (nothing offshore or in trust shows up) — but a willy-waving exercise to show who’s got the biggest. And now we all know who has!
This week I’ve had two hits of Nicholas Coleridge CBE, Condé Nast supremo, and new chairman of the V&A. First was an ‘in conversation’ with Peter York for the Media Society. As Nick once agreed to interview me in darkest Devon in front of the Exmoor squirearchy, while in the natural order of things I should have been interviewing him, turning up was the least I could do. At the Groucho, he delivered himself of the most heavenly ‘humblebrag’. When asked why he became an author, Nick agreed it was curious.