After Bank of England economist Huw Pill's Marie Antoinette-style comments about being poorer, he should keep his head down for a while – Vladimir McTavish

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People in top jobs should really think twice before opening their mouths.

Earlier this week, Bank Of England economist Huw Pill sparked a public backlash and a huge social media storm when he said that people in Britain “need to accept” that they are poorer, and that excessive wage rises would only fuel inflation through what he described as a “pass the parcel” effect on prices.

That analogy was made to look particularly insensitive the next day when food bank charity the Trussell Trust announced that they had handed out nearly three million food parcels in the past 12 months. For too many people in this country, ‘pass the parcel’ is anything but a game.

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Huw Pill’s salary is reported to be £190,000 a year. So it’s pretty rich of him to pontificate about people’s wage demands when he’s being passed a parcel every month with so much cash in it.

Of course, this is far from the first time that we have heard such arrogant nonsense from someone in a position of power. Ten years ago, when he was Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith famously claimed that he could live on £53 a week. At the time, his weekly earnings as a Cabinet minister were £1,600 a week after tax.

Prominent Tories are particularly fond of this sort of rubbish. Former Cabinet minister and millionaire father-of-six Jacob Rees-Mogg complained a few weeks ago that not enough people are having children, totally oblivious of the fact that his own government’s policies have led to nearly four million children living in poverty in the UK.

Incidentally, I find it somewhat disturbing to think that Rees-Mogg has fathered one child, let alone half a dozen. The real problems in this country aren’t caused by normal people not having enough kids. They are caused by posh clowns like him having far too many offspring and sending them out into the world with names like Sixtus Dominic Boniface. In case you’re wondering, that’s actually an abbreviated version of his youngest son’s name.

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The late Duke Of Edinburgh was the master of the insensitive gaffe, once asking a driving instructor in Oban if anyone in the town ever sobered up long enough to pass their test. But it is not only the rich and powerful who come out with crass out-of-touch comments.

Marie Antoinette was not famed for her concern for the poor (Picture: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)Marie Antoinette was not famed for her concern for the poor (Picture: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Marie Antoinette was not famed for her concern for the poor (Picture: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Members of the wider public are also capable of opening their mouths before engaging their brain. A few years ago, I overheard a conversation on an Edinburgh bus which went along the lines of “You know, I really can’t understand why all these people are going to food banks. A Marks and Spencer’s dine-in for two only costs ten pounds”.

Of course, that person was only making their views known to their travelling companion on the top deck of the number 23 so there was only a faintly murmured disagreement. If they’d been posting them online, there would have been a justifiable pile-on.

Most famously of all, Marie Antoinette, when told that the rioting poor could not afford bread, is reputed to have said “let them eat cake”. And we all know what happened to her. My advice to Huw Pill? Stay quiet for a while and don’t lose your head, metaphorically of course.

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