Labour members who own property worth more than £1m should be charged a membership fee of £1,000, according to party MP John Mann.
The MP for Bassetlaw, who has been an outspoken critic of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, said he would formally put forward a proposal to introduce “a Labour mansion tax” at the party’s annual conference.
Writing on his website, Mann said: “Hidden from the discussion of Labour’s big increase in membership is any analysis of who has joined as fee-paying individual members, but a deeper examination will show that it is overwhelmingly the middle classes who are joining.”
The MP claimed that on one street in the Labour leader’s constituency of Islington North, populated by owner-occupiers in multimillion-pound houses, 40 people had joined the party over a 12-week period.
Mann suggested that the new members could help avert a funding crisis that would come if the government’s trade union bill passes. A confidential Labour document released to the Guardian last week revealed that the party faces an expected £6m drop in its annual income as a result of the changes to the political levy being introduced in the bill.
“When Labour’s membership was last this high in 1997, there was a very different picture with a good mix of members coming from all backgrounds and classes. Of those who left the party over the years, it is mainly the middle class members who have recently rejoined,” wrote Mann, arguing that this was a big political problem for the party.
“The party has lost most of its bigger private donors and depleted trade union political funds will not be capable of again bridging this gap. This is why it is time for a Labour wealth tax. Those members with properties valued at over a million pounds should be expected to pay a Labour wealth tax of £1,000 a year to be a Labour party member. It will raise significant money and it is entirely socialist in its approach.”
Mann’s proposal comes amid criticism from some of the party’s MPs that the Labour leadership is too London-centric and is losing touch with the party’s traditional working class support base.
Giving his maiden speech in the House of Lords this week, former Labour MP and chair of the parliamentary Labour party David Watts said: “My advice to my own party leadership is that they should take less notice of the London-centric hard left political class who sit around in their £1m mansions eating their croissants at breakfast and seeking to lay the foundations for a socialist revolution.”
The price of Labour party membership is currently £48 a year, and Guardian analysis of the party’s membership surge shows that Labour has seen a particularly sharp rise in membership in London.
This article was written by Frances Perraudin, for theguardian.com on Thursday 14th January 2016 16.08 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010