Labour needs to seize the agenda and fight for a Wealth Tax – Richard Burgon MP

“Unless Labour offers its own solutions then, however unpopular certain Tory policies are, we can’t expect the public to see us as the alternative.”

Richard Burgon MP.

The debate on how to fund much-needed social care investment has forced the issue of taxation to the top of the political agenda. The new Tory tax hikes are simple class warfare – hitting millions of working people in the pocket and letting the wealthy off the hook. They are part of a relentless Tory attempt to make working people pay for the Covid crisis – with millions also set to be hit by Universal Credit cuts of over £1,000 per year So it’s right that our whole Labour movement has rejected the regressive Tory tax plans. But opposing reactionary Tory policies is not enough.

Our party also has to map out its own alternative. Unless Labour offers its own solutions then, however unpopular certain Tory policies are, we can’t expect the public to see us as the alternative. A General Election now looks likely within the next 18 months – and polls suggest we are still falling way short of forming the next government. To turn this around our party needs to urgently paint a picture of what it stands for. Timidity at this time risks many more years of Tory rule.

And it is completely unnecessary. From a Green New Deal, to reversing NHS privatisation, to building 100,000 new council houses a year, and scrapping student fees, we have developed progressive policies in recent years that have strong public backing. Continuing such progressive policies was the basis of the policy platform on which Keir Starmer won his leadership election. But sadly that policy platform is not being pursued. Our Party must now seize this moment to spell out a better alternative.

With the government set to publish a Social Care White Paper in the coming weeks, we need to be calling for a National Care Service funded through a Wealth Tax. Huge work has been done in recent years on Labour’s vision for a National Care Service. It would be based on the principles of our NHS – free at the point of use, provided by the public sector and paid for through progressive taxation. It would include free personal care, support local authorities to directly provide care rather than outsource it and proper pay for the workforce.

This is a vision that we can be confident would resonate with the public. A Wealth Tax is also an idea whose time has clearly come. British billionaires increased their wealth by £106 billion during the crisis, according to the Sunday Times Rich List. That’s a sickening £290m per day. A Wealth Tax on the richest 1% with assets of over £5m, for example, would raise many billions.

But the Tories are so in the pocket of the super-rich that they’re refusing to tax wealth and instead are targeting working people. If Labour is to expose the Tory rhetoric about “levelling up” and boost our standing in the polls then the leadership needs to be much clearer about what the party stands for.

A Wealth Tax is the perfect way of showing whose side we are on.

Richard Burgon MP speaking at the Labour Assembly Against Austerity Fringe at Labour Conference 21. Photo credit: Labour Outlook Archive.

Leave a Reply