We’re all in this together (except for the top 1%). It’s hardly the most compelling political slogan, but it’s a fair description of our current slough of despond, as the Chancellor delivers his first Budget where he can’t plausibly bang on about it being Labour wot landed us in it. Tomorrow’s statement will contain plenty of dire news, courtesy of the OBR, an organisation too young to have been corrupted by the Treasury machine into taking dictation.

The misery can be eased, and the populace comforted, if only Mr Osborne could find a way of making the fattest cats pay more. He underestimates the depth of feeling against this thin layer of full-fat atop the skimmed milk the rest of us are on at his peril. Pay rises to FTSE100 directors, bonuses for bankers at loss-making rescued banks, and rewards to departing failed executives (in both public and private sectors) all fuel the resentment. Austerity is bearable if everyone is paying. If some are seen to escape, then the likely result is something much worse than a few tents outside St Pauls.

The shareholders in large companies have proved incapable of restraining executive pay inflation. This is understandable, since indignant protests from individual shareholders are easily brushed aside. The people with the votes are not real shareholders at all, but fund managers who are themselves paid similar, life-changing sums, often regardless of performance. They have no incentive to stop the gravy train, since it’s not their money that’s being spent, but that of their semi-captive clients and policyholders.

So here’s a modest proposal: amend the law so that no contract with a director can be binding on a company until it has been approved by shareholders in a general meeting. It would be simple to implement, and would immediately chill the more egregious demands of incoming senior executives. The fat cats with the votes would be forced to justify why they were not voting against the magnificent package for an incoming chief executive. In practice, of course, the directors will have squared the deal with the biggest voters ahead of the meeting, but the change would at least rebalance the odds towards the company in the negotiations: “Of course we think you’re worth every penny, but the shareholders just won’t wear it, old boy.”