There was a silly story the other day about a company boss who had threatened to fire any employee who didn’t vote Conservative on 8 June. Silly because a secret ballot means you aren’t obliged to fess up, to your boss or anyone else, so who’d be so dumb? But also because the email that the boss in question sent was clearly very friendly. ‘Hi Everyone,’ John Brooker wrote to his staff on polling day.
I hope you all exercise your right to elect your chosen candidate/party. Just a heads up though, VOTE CONSERVATIVE if you believe in free enterprise and progression without being taxed out of the game … If by any chance Labour win, we'll have to re-think a few things here at the company so if you value your job and want to hold onto your hard earned money vote Conservative … Anyway, just sharing my personal thoughts with you. Feel free to vote for whoever you want but I have said my piece. JB
Brooker had good reason for feeling strongly. The company he owns, Storm Technologies, based in Watford, describes itself as ‘one of the fastest growing independent IT Value-Added Reseller's in the UK’. In other words, it’s one of those IT outfits that persuades regular suckers to buy software and hardware they could perfectly easily buy themselves off the shelf – antivirus tools, servers, printers etc – from them instead. You can buy a copy of Microsoft Office from Microsoft for £120, or you can buy it from a reseller for £120 plus the cost of their ‘complete support at every stage of the process’. ‘Value-added’, here, means value is added to the coffers of Storm Technologies.
And an awful lot of value has been added. In 2015, Storm made a profit of nearly £2.2 million after tax. The company has more than a hundred employees, a large number of them in sales, and two shareholders, John Brooker and Soraya Brooker (his wife). Also in 2015, the shareholders – that’s John Brooker and his wife – received dividends of £1,688,000, three quarters of the company profits. The highest-paid director – could it be John Brooker? – was paid a salary of £355,000. Now, as Brooker rightly understood, a Labour government would reduce those sums, thanks to its manifesto promises of an increase in corporation tax and in income tax for those earning more than £80,000 a year (that’s 5 per cent of earners), and to its proposed levy on companies paying salaries over £330,000. It's almost as if they had him in mind. He, personally, has every reason – well, maybe two hundred thousand of them – for voting Conservative. Thanks to its ruthlessly clear and unapologetic manifesto, Brooker would have been able to calculate exactly how much he would lose under Labour. Just before the election, I heard of another boss who, having run his own calculations, had taken out a £75,000 bet on a Corbyn victory, as insurance against the £5 million he would expect to lose out on over five years.
A Labour government – which would explicitly tax the John Brookers, on £330k+ per annum, plus a million-whatever in dividends, so as to pay for the schools, hospitals, police and fire services that 60 million other people rely on – would mean tighter times in the Brooker household. But it would also be good news for the average sales rep or technical assistant at Storm Technologies Ltd – as whoever leaked the boss's letter to the GMB union clearly realised. For the sake of the many, you know, not the few.