Murphy attacked on new nurses plan

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Published: Tuesday 6th January 2015 by The News Editor

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Jim Murphy has come under fire over his plan to fund 1,000 new nurses in Scotland using the proceeds of a planned mansion tax which will mainly hit households in London and south east England.

The Scottish Labour leader was accused of planning to “expropriate” money from Londoners to support his effort to win power north of the border by a senior MP within his own party.

Veteran leftwinger Diane Abbott, who hopes to run for London mayor, said Mr Murphy had behaved in a “highly unscrupulous way”.

Labour will impose a levy on homes worth more than £2 million across the UK with the revenue earmarked for the NHS if Ed Miliband wins May’s general election.

Mr Murphy said he would use Scotland’s share of the money, allocated under the Barnett formula, to pay for 1,000 nurses if Labour wins the Holyrood election next year.

But Ms Abbott said there were still “big problems” with the mansion tax policy that had to be addressed, including its impact on Londoners.

She said: “He just thinks he can buy Scottish votes with money expropriated from London.”

On BBC Radio 4’s The World At One she said: “It is effectively a tax on London, 80% of it will come from London, and there are problems. The super-wealthy plutocrats, who we all think should pay the mansion tax, probably through using their lawyers and accountants will evade it but you could be a teacher in Hackney, who bought a house in the 1980s for £50,000 and it’s worth £1 million and climbing.

“Jim Murphy can’t surely mean he is going to expropriate money from Londoners to win an election in Scotland.”

She added: “You can’t recruit people on the basis of money that hasn’t been raised yet. There’s a lot of discussion and debate that needs to go on about how we can implement a mansion tax fairly.

“Thank goodness (shadow chancellor) Ed Balls is showing an open mind on this. Jim Murphy is jumping the gun in a highly unscrupulous way.”

But Mr Murphy mocked Ms Abbott after she mistakenly referred to him as John, saying “it’s hard to take this argument seriously when she didn’t even remember my name”.

He told The World At One: “When it comes to how we would spend money in Scotland on devolved areas, which of course the NHS is, I don’t have to consult Diane Abbott and I don’t have to clear things with Ed Miliband. That’s not the way it works in the Labour Party these days.”

He compared the plan to spend money levied on English homes on Scottish nurses to the way the oil wealth from the North Sea was shared around the UK.

“More of those people who live in homes worth £2 million live in London and the South East and the oil and gas is exploited largely off the north east coast of Scotland,” he said.

“It’s part of pooling and sharing your resources across these islands, it’s pretty sensible.”

Ms Abbott’s rivals in the race to be the candidate in the 2016 mayoral election in London also hit out at Mr Murphy’s announcement.

David Lammy told the Evening Standard: “It cannot be right, when one in three Londoners is living in poverty, that the money raised from London taxpayers continues to be siphoned off to other regions.”

Dame Tessa Jowell told the newspaper “we cannot simply act as the cash cow for the rest of the UK”.

London mayor Boris Johnson said the policy to “mug” people in the South East was the result of a plan by Labour to “bribe” voters in Scotland who could be tempted to back the SNP.

Mr Johnson told LBC: “Labour has made a cynical calculation that they are more vulnerable in Scotland to the SNP than they are, say, in the South East or they are in London.

“They have decided to punish the South East, or to be fiscally vindictive towards the south east of England, in order to try to bribe the Scots to vote Labour.

“It’s no way to run a country.”

He added that Labour wanted to “squeeze those Londoners until the pips squeak” and added: “I think it’s very regrettable that Labour should use divisive tactics and should be setting up one part of the country against another.”

A Labour spokesman said: “A mansion tax would benefit all parts of the UK by helping to pay for thousands more doctors, nurses, midwives and care workers.

“Today’s news about the growing crisis in our NHS underlines why it is vital to transform and save England’s NHS from the Tories.

“The tax would affect less than 0.5% of properties in the country and less than 3% in London.

“The overwhelming majority of funding raised from the mansion tax will be spent in England, but as with any UK-wide tax, Scotland will receive a share of the proceeds under the Barnett formula, which has cross-party support.

“It is up to the Scottish Government how to spend this revenue.”

Tory chairman Grant Shapps said: ” Jim Murphy’s comments show once again that Ed Miliband simply does not command the respect of his party.

“They don’t listen to him or consult him because he is a weak leader. If Miliband can’t prevent chaos from breaking out in his own party, then he clearly isn’t fit to run the country.”

Published: Tuesday 6th January 2015 by The News Editor

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