Labour contenders for London mayor have lined up with Boris Johnson to criticise a proposal from the new leader of Scottish Labour to use funds generated by the party’s planned mansion tax to pay for 1,000 extra NHS nurses in Scotland.
Diane Abbott, the MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, who has announced her intention to run in London’s mayoral election in 2016, said Jim Murphy “just thinks he can buy Scottish votes with money expropriated from London”.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s The World at One, Abbott described the mansion tax as “effectively a tax on London”. Labour says the mansion tax will cover properties worth more than £2m, many of which will be in the capital.
Murphy announced earlier that the extra funds made available for Scotland under the Barnett formula if a mansion tax was introduced across the UK would be used to fund more NHS staff. He said he had not consulted with Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, before making his pledge.
Abbott said: “The super-wealthy, who we all think should pay the mansion tax, probably, using lawyers and accountants, will evade it,” she said. “But there are all sorts of people that bought houses 30 years ago in what were unfashionable parts of London which are worth at least £1m and Jim Murphy isn’t helping matters by firing off without consulting.”
She added: “There’s a lot of discussion and debate that needs to go on about how we can implement a mansion tax fairly. Thank goodness Ed Balls is showing an open mind on this. Jim Murphy is jumping the gun in a highly unscrupulous way.”
Abbott initially referred to Murphy, who appeared on the same programme, as John. Murphy responded: “I get on well with Diane, but it’s hard to take this argument seriously when she didn’t even remember my name at the start of the interview.”
He continued: “I don’t have to consult Diane Abbott about what I do in the Scottish Labour party. What I’m doing is arguing for and supporting the British Labour party’s policy, which is that those people in houses over £2m would pay a mansion tax.”
Johnson described Murphy’s plans as “fiscally vindictive”. Speaking on his LBC phone-in, he said: “Londoners perfectly accept that we have a duty to the rest of the country. We already export huge quantities in taxation – about £19bn 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.”
The London Labour MPs David Lammy and Tessa Jowell – who are in the running for the mayoral candidacy – also expressed concerns over Murphy’s announcement. Lammy said money from London should not be “siphoned off to other regions”, and Jowell said London could not “simply act as the cash cow for the rest of the UK”.
Speaking to the New Statesman on Monday, the shadow justice minister, Sadiq Khan, said Labour’s mayoral contenders should not allow themselves to get distracted from the general election.
“London is best served by a Labour government; anybody who’s distracted by campaigning, by doing anything for themselves as an individual, is letting down London,” he said.
“The point is this: you could have the best Labour mayor we’ve ever seen, but if you’ve got a Tory government privatising the NHS, not building homes, increasing inequality, keeping the bedroom tax, having young people thrown on the scrapheap, leaving the European Union, Scotland breaking away from the United Kingdom, what is the point?”
The Conservative party chairman, Grant Shapps, said Murphy’s comments demonstrated that Ed Miliband did not command the respect of his party. He said: “They don’t listen to him or consult him because he is a weak leader.”
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