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You scare me to death, Phones 4u billionaire tells John McDonnell

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 09/12/2019 Sophia Sleigh
John Caudwell wearing glasses © Provided by Evening Standard

The billionaire founder of Phones 4u today warned John McDonnell that Labour’s economic policies will result in the very rich leaving the UK.

Philanthropist John Caudwell, 67, went head-to-head with the shadow chancellor and told him that Labour Party messages “frighten me to death for the future of Britain”.

It came as Mr McDonnell set out plans for his first 100 days in office if he gets elected in a speech on London’s South Bank today.

He said his first budget would take place on February 5 when “almost 10 years of cuts will come to an end”, with a string of promises, including billions for the NHS, a £10-an-hour living wage for workers over 16, and plans to tax the super-rich.

John McDonnell wearing a red and white sign: Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer John McDonnell (REUTERS) © Provided by Evening Standard Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer John McDonnell (REUTERS)

Mr McDonnell has previously stated that “nobody needs or deserves” to be a billionaire — which Mr Caudwell said was creating a “divisive message”.

“When I hear phrases like ‘nobody deserves to be a billionaire’, it frightens the living daylights out of me,” he said on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“What you are doing as a Labour Party is destroying confidence. Nearly every wealthy person I know is thinking of leaving the UK,including me, if Labour get in.”

John Caudwell wearing glasses: John Cauldwell (Getty Images) © Provided by Evening Standard John Cauldwell (Getty Images)

Mr Caudwell, who has an estimated £1.6 billion fortune, said the rich-poor divide was “disgusting” but added: “When you then say we need to get rid of billionaires that’s … just ridiculous. We need to encourage wealth creators.”

But Mr McDonnell claimed his plans had been “exaggerated” by sections of the media.

In his speech today he said: “There will always be those at the top who will do anything to stop us. We’ve seen character assassinations, lies and smears taken to a new level.

"Those who’ve had it good for so long are terrified. Terrified of losing control. When they attack me, or Jeremy, we know it’s not really about us. It’s about you. They hate the people of this country.

a man wearing a suit and tie: Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell (PA) © Provided by Evening Standard Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell (PA)

“They hate the idea you might dream of a better life. No wonder they will stop at nothing to keep you from taking control of the country where you live.”

The shadow chancellor said he had been working up draft plans to hand to civil servants this Friday, the day after the election, adding: “Don’t be fooled by the doubters who say our plans are unachievable.”

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has warned that Labour would be unable to deliver the spending increases as it has promised without higher taxes for poorer people too.

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