Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

By saying he'll fund the NHS with a 'mansion tax' Ed Miliband is waging class warfare — and I love it

After so many unfair policies have been unloaded on the poor and vulnerable, a tax on the wealthy is long overdue

Max Benwell
Tuesday 23 September 2014 19:25 BST
Ed Miliband at the Labour Party conference
Ed Miliband at the Labour Party conference (EPA)

Ed Miliband’s plan to give the NHS a big cash injection by taxing the wealthy is class warfare, pure and simple. It’s red versus blue. It’s Scargill versus Thatcher. It’s James Delingpole against Owen Jones on Daily Politics with Andrew Neil. It’s red-blooded, Robin Hood politics. And for all of these reasons, I love it.

For the last four years I have despaired at how badly the most vulnerable members of our society have been treated, but also Labour's completely damp response to it all.

Now, Miliband is finally letting Miliband be Miliband — or at least a vaguely closer approximation of what the Left want him to be. He's announced today his plans to tax homes worth over £2m, and then pump over £1bn of the resulting revenue back into the NHS.

He’s also thrown down the gauntlet to the Tories, and said that he needs two terms to do it. Who would have thought such political audacity, or at least the appearance of it, could have been cooked up by the wonks at Labour HQ? Miliband effectively stood on stage today with a giant foam hand shouting “Four more years!!”, before he’s even been PM for one. For someone who can't eat a bacon sandwich, and talks as if he's never seen The West Wing, it’s great.

His crazy leftist conspiracy will rile up the usual critics from the Right, who will say his plans are an attack on Britain’s “hard-working” people. But what it really is is an attack on rich people, and after the last four years, this couldn’t come any sooner.

For any country to work, especially in a time of economic trouble, someone has to pay for it. If making someone do this is an “attack”, then so be it. So far it seems that the Conservatives expect the poor to bear the brunt of their austerity measures. You might have already heard this, but it bears repeating: in January, George Osborne pledged to slash an extra £12bn from the welfare bill, after lowering the rate of tax for those earning over £150,000 in 2013 - which earned the coveted title of the world’s largest annual tax cut.

If taxing homes over £2m is "an attack on the rich", then what should we call these policies? And what label should we ascribe to the bedroom tax, which faces being repealed for being too harsh on the disabled and poor? It’s probably best described not by any words, but by the sad sound of George Osborne being booed at the London Paralympics two years ago.

The fact is that most people work hard. Trying to quantify whether a CEO works harder than a single mother juggling two minimum-wage jobs is ridiculous. Should we strap them both up with heart monitors and see? The difference is that even if the CEO get taxed on their big house, they won’t have to worry about paying their next round of bills.

Clearly, all-out class warfare isn’t the most sensible idea. It can lead to a political war of attrition. But then again, the fact that 500,000 Britons have relied on food banks since Easter last year needs to be confronted, and ruthlessly. The pay gap has also dramatically widened. The rich really don’t need to get any richer, but the poor do. The playing field will never be levelled, but we should do everything we can to make sure it’s not so unequal.

I’m not saying Labour are perfect. Just yesterday, Ed Balls announced that he would be freezing the child benefit budget, reducing it in real terms. As The Independent’s Dave Brown brilliantly illustrated yesterday, this will only add single mothers to the list of people Ed Balls has elbowed in the face.

However, despite this knock back, Labour’s plans to fund the NHS are reassuring. Because in life, you’ve got to pick a side. And if I had to choose, I’d rather be booed by a banquet hall of FTSE 100 execs than a stadium full of people watching the paralympics.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in