Miliband: Rich might suffer under Labour

Opposition leader warns wealth tax may be used to help tackle Britain's deficit

Labour may fight the next election on a pledge to bring in a "wealth tax" on owners of high-value properties, it emerged yesterday.

Ed Miliband warned there would be winners and losers under Labour's plans to eliminate Britain's deficit in a different way to the Coalition. He also promised to be different from the previous Labour government – and went further than before in admitting his party's failures during the Blair-Brown era.

"We have to recognise some of the things we didn't achieve," he said. He acknowledged that inequality between the very top and the very bottom grew; too many people found themselves stuck in low-skilled, low-wage jobs and that Gordon Brown's tax credits were not enough.

"Fairness wasn't hard-wired into our economy and society," he said. He admitted that, as Energy Secretary, he was not "strong enough" in preventing the Big Six energy firms from abusing their dominant position.

In an important speech designed to launch a personal and party fightback, the Labour leader said: "Whoever governs after 2015 will have to find more savings." He added: "In these times, with less money, spending more on one thing means finding the money from somewhere else. When someone wins, someone else loses... If you want to make taxes fairer for those on middle and low incomes, your priority can't be to scrap the 50p rate for those earning £150,000 or more."

In the new straitened times, he said, Labour would have to find other ways to deliver fairness rather than spending more, as it did during its 13 years in power. Although no decisions have been taken, he hinted that the party might increase the proportion of revenue needed to clear the deficit to be raised by higher taxes, with less coming from spending cuts than under the Coalition's plans.

The "squeezed middle" championed by Mr Miliband would not face higher taxes, which would be targeted on the highest earners. Rather than extend the 50p top tax rate, Labour might impose a new property tax, which would be harder to evade.

One option would be similar to the mansion tax on homes worth more than £2m which was advocated by the Liberal Democrats at the last election. Although they have pressed it recently inside the Coalition, David Cameron and George Osborne are not keen and the Government looks unlikely to adopt it – leaving the field clear for Labour.

Mr Miliband's speech, designed to convince voters that Labour is serious about clearing the deficit, was criticised by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats for lacking detail of what would be cut. The Labour leader said his party would not be able to reverse the Coalition's reduction in winter fuel allowances for pensioners. Instead, he announced that energy companies would be forced by law to place customers aged over 75 in the cheapest tariff for their gas and electricity to save them an average £200 a year.

A Labour government would "take on" train companies, insisting a cap on fare rises would apply to every regulated train fare – not just less busy routes.

He cited these as examples of how Labour would tackle "vested interests" and ensure fairness without adding to public spending. If Labour regains power, a higher burden would fall on private companies under Mr Miliband's "responsible capitalism" agenda.

He is attracted by the idea of a living wage of about £7.85 an hour, higher than the £6.08 an hour national minimum wage, and said councils offering contracts to private firms could insist on them paying the higher rate. But he said Labour would ensure the scheme was credible before adopting it as policy.

Despite his talk of tough choices on cuts, Mr Miliband said he was personally committed to universal benefits such as child benefit and the state pension and was not in favour of asking people to pay towards treatment on the NHS.

He dismissed sniping at his performance and poll ratings as "noises off". He told his critics: "Don't declare the result of the race when it is not yet half-run. I have a very strong inner belief I will win the race." Admitting Labour had not yet won the economic argument, he said: "This Coalition Government has shown... it is losing the argument. I am determined not just that we can win it, but that I can win it."

Too ugly to lead? So says the perfect face for radio...

Ed Miliband faced an unusual problem for a male politician yesterday when he had to fend off a suggestion that he is not handsome enough to be Prime Minister.

The Labour leader laughed in the face of his interviewer, John Humphrys, as the question was put. Later, he countered questions about whether he has the personality of a leader by suggesting that Humphrys join him when he was out meeting the public and "then you make the judgement".

The question was prompted by opinion poll results which suggest that about two-thirds of voters do not rate Mr Miliband as a party leader, implying that he might be a hindrance to the Labour Party.

On BBC Radio 4's Today programme. Humphrys recounted a private conversation with the late Robin Cook, a leading member of Labour's front bench, who decided not to run for the leadership against Tony Blair in 1994.

"I asked him if he was going to go for it and he said 'No' and I said, 'Why not?' He said, 'They wouldn't have me – I'm too ugly'," Humphrys said.

"Is that a comment on me, John? My goodness!" Mr Miliband replied, laughing.

Humphrys hurriedly added: "I'm not suggesting that you, Ed Miliband, are too ugly."

Andy McSmith

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Buddy DeFranco
people
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
filmIdris Elba responds to James Bond rumours on Twitter
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015