SCOTTISH Labour leader Jim Murphy has been accused by senior members of his own party and Tory mayor Boris Johnson of trying to “mug London” to pay for 1,000 new nurses in Scotland.
Speaking on LBC radio yesterday, Mr Johnson hit out at plans by Mr Murphy to use the proceeds of a UK-wide mansion tax to fund an extra 1,000 nurses in Scotland. He branded the move as “fiscally vindictive” against the south-east of England.
It is expected most of the money from Labour’s mansion tax would come from London, which is home to 86,000 of the 110,000 properties across the UK that are worth £2 million-plus. Mr Johnson was joined by London Labour MPs David Lammy, Tessa Jowell and Diane Abbott in chiding Mr Murphy for “trying to siphon off money” from the UK’s capital city.
The furious response came after Mr Murphy, who did not clear his new policy with Labour leader Ed Miliband, said: “We will tax houses in London and the south-east to pay for the 1,000 new nurses in the Scottish NHS. It’s a real win-win for Scotland.”
On Twitter he pointed out that 95 per cent of the mansion tax on homes worth £2 million or more would be raised in the south-east of England. In his response, Mr Johnson accused Labour of “trying to squeeze London until the pips squeak.” He said: “Londoners perfectly accept that we have a duty to the rest of the country.
“We already export huge quantities in taxation – about £19 billion a year. But I don’t think it is right that the Labour party should be saying one thing to the Scots and standing on a completely different ticket in London.
“It is very regrettable that Labour should use divisive tactics and should be setting up one part of the country against another. It won’t pay off for them. It is no way to run a country. This is no way to claim you are the unifying force in this great country of ours.
“You should not be saying to one group of people: vote for us in Scotland because we are going to tax, we are going to mug even, squeeze those Londoners till the pips squeak. That is a way to set up resentments. I don’t think it is the right way forward.”
CONNECT WITH THE SCOTSMAN
• Subscribe to our daily newsletter (requires registration) and get the latest news, sport and business headlines delivered to your inbox every morning
The mayor added: “Labour created [the] monster of Scottish nationalism, which almost led to the break-up of our country last year. What’s happened now is Labour has made a cynical calculation they are more vulnerable in Scotland to the SNP than they are in the south-east or London.”
Hackney Labour MP Ms Abbott joined in the attack, saying the mansion tax – which is UK Labour policy – is “a tax on London”. In an interview where she struggled to remember Mr Murphy’s name, Ms Abbott, who hopes to be Labour’s candidate for London mayor, said the Scottish leader was “unscrupulous”.
Fellow mayoral hopeful Dame Tessa warned against treating London as “a cash cow” while Mr Lammy, another potential candidate, said it showed money would be “siphoned off”.
But Mr Murphy said he was showing the benefits of “pooling the resources of the UK”. Speaking in Aberdeen, he pointed out most of the UK North Sea oil and gas revenue is Scottish. He said it was right mansion tax should be shared the same way.
He said: “What I’m arguing for is supporting British Labour Party policy and Ms Abbott should remember that.”
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND IPHONE APPS