The Scottish Labour Party’s proposal to fund an expansion of health services in the region by raising taxes on expensive homes could eradicate the vestiges of the leftist party’s support in the south.
Jim Murphy, the Scottish Labour Party leader, said he would pay for 1,000 extra nurses in Scotland “not by increasing taxes and the pressure on the working class but by introducing a new tax — a mansion tax on houses worth over £2 million most of which is in London and the South East. It’s a real win-win for Scotland.”
Less so, obviously, for those English living in expansive homes, many of whom might not be rich but have simply seen the value of their houses increase in the last few decades.
When asked whether Labour Party leader Ed Miliband supported his policy or not, Murphy admitted, “I didn’t ask him. I have no idea. I am sure he probably will.”
Miliband does support raising taxes on high-value properties and has also hammered Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives for supposedly neglecting the National Health Service, even if health-care spending has continued to rise every year under their government. It wouldn’t be a stretch to suppose he indeed supports Murphy’s policy.
It is doubtful Labour could directly use the proceeds of a national mansion tax to pay for extra nurses in Scotland. But that doesn’t make Murphy’s proposal politically less significant. Rather, it is especially significant because it reveals a decision on Labour’s part “to launch its election campaign by so brazenly embracing an anti-south, anti-London narrative,” according to Dan Hodges.
The former trade union official is unforgiving in his appraisal of the policy, writing in The Telegraph, “Labour has just told London and the South East to drop dead.”
“It’s not just that this represents a repudiation of Tony Blair’s strategy for building a winning coalition,” he writes.
The former prime minister successfully appealed to middle-class voters in the south of England by moderating Labour’s policy and returned the party to power after eighteen years in opposition.
It demolishes what we were told was Ed Miliband’s own strategy for building a winning coalition.
Whatever did happen to Labour’s claim to be he defenders of the squeezed middle classes? What happened to Ed Miliband’s vision of “One Nation”?
Murphy wasn’t proposing to “squeeze the rich,” according to Hodges. He was saying “squeeze the middle” — the very voters Miliband has pledged to protect.
It was “the working class” Murphy made a point of pitching to as he announced the policy. As far as Labour is concerned, in the war to win the 2015 general election, the middle classes constitute acceptable collateral damage.
Defending Labour’s seats in Scotland, where the Scottish National Party is pulling ahead in the polls, is clearly more important.
In its editorial on Thursday, The Telegraph newspaper observed, “Scotland has become a crucial battleground for Labour if it is to retain any pretense to pan-UK representation.”
Yet it is the Scottish Conservatives, it argues, who have only one seat in Westminster and fifteen in the regional parliament, who have the more sensible proposal: pay for more nurses by ending free prescriptions, something that’s already been done south of the border.