The general case against austerity has been well made: the economy moves into a cycle of decline. Let us suppose that current policy fails, that it becomes clear that the freed-up market is not bringing growth within the current parliament, and so even more money needs to be saved. One possible path to follow is greater austerity for the rich.

Seen from Westminster, this scenario might appear fanciful, but viewed from the Midlands, from the north of England, from Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, it is much more palatable. For the majority of the population of the UK who are or will be badly affected by the current austerity programme, and in areas where very few of the top 1 per cent of income earners live, austerity for the rich could prove popular.

In Britain today, income and wealth gaps have become greater than at any point in living memory, and are greater than in almost all other similar wealthy countries, trailing only Portugal among major European nations.

How much money could be saved by austerity among the UK's rich? What if 90 per cent of taxpayers were to become better-off but income differentials were also to return to 1970s levels? The country would save 27 per cent of its total salary bill, or approximately £194 billion every year.