Labour’s Owen Smith promises ‘practical socialist revolution’

Labour leadership contender Owen Smith.
Labour leadership contender Owen Smith.
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As Labour’s self-proclaimed “next Prime Minister” Owen Smith says he would overhaul the tax system and reverse unfair Conservative cuts.

He said it is only possible to turn the country into a more prosperous place when Labour is in power – something that current leader Jeremy Corbyn is unable to achieve.

However he has come under fire for his language when he said Labour should “smash Theresa May back on her heels”.

One Plaid Cymru politician said the phrase smacks of 1970s Welsh Valleys Labour while one Labour source said it could be intimidating to female MPs.

Setting out a raft of policy ideas in South Yorkshire this morning, he said he would re-instate the 50p top rate of income tax, which he described as a Tory tax cut for millionaires.

He would stop further reductions to Corporation Tax, reverse Tory cuts to Inheritance Tax and Capital Gains Tax and levy a Wealth Tax, which would be a surcharge on investment earnings by the wealthiest one per cent in our country, raising £3bn a year.

Increasing spending on the NHS by four percent in real-terms in every year of the next Parliament and committing to bring NHS funding up to the European average were other pledges he made today as he aims to take over the leadership of the party from Mr Corbyn.

He said he wants to “smash austerity” which requires a cold-eyed practical socialist revolution that builds a better Britain.

“Not some misty-eyed romantic notion of a revolution where we are going to overthrow capitalism and return to a socialist nirvana,” he said, before pausing for effect.

“I don’t know who I am referring to...” he added.

Ballot papers are due to be sent to party members in August after Mr Corbyn’s leadership was challenged first by Angela Eagle, and then Mr Smith, who has the backing of the majority of MPs.

He said Mr Corbyn’s shadow cabinet, which he was part of as shadow work and pensions secretary, had been devoid of ideas with Mr Corbyn walking around the country saying he wanted to end austerity but had not presented an alternative.

He refused to apologize for his colourful language when he said he wanted to “smash Theresa May back on her heels”, describing it as a piece of rhetoric but that those in Labour should “smashing the Tories back on their heels. Austerity has smashed communities back across Britain.”

His decision to hold his second major campaign speech in Orgreave in South Yorkshire was because the region speaks to his politics.

“It symbolises so much about me and my politics, where I come from,” he said.

“I grew up in the South Wales valleys, I grew up in the seat I represent, Pontypridd, a town once surrounded by 13 pits and a coke works, much like Orgreave. All gone, of course. I wanted to do it here to remind us of the great battles, the great victories we have fought as a movement, and some of the losses we have endured too.”

Adding his own voice to Labour’s calls for an Orgreave inquiry he said it was “high time” that there was a full Hillsborough style investigation into the 1984 clash between miners and police.

Coming from a family of miners he said he had connections to the industries that once dominated parts of Yorkshire.

His personal politics were also galvanised during the 1980s minster strikes, he said.

“The strike was important to me and Orgreave had a coke works just like in the middle of my constituency.”

A spokesperson for Mr Corbyn’s campaign team “Jeremy for Labour” said Mr Smith’s plans have already been announced.

They said: “Employment rights have been front and centre for John McDonnell in the past 10 months as Shadow Chancellor and throughout his campaigning life.

“He launched the Institute of Employment Rights “Manifesto for Labour Law” on 28 June, which included a policy to reinstate the Ministry of Labour.

“Jeremy Corbyn has also proposed reinstating the Ministry of Labour, notably during last year’s leadership campaign.”

Mr Smith said this had passed Labour members because its launch had been so ineffectual.