Lord Melvyn Bragg: Mansion tax may ‘wipe out’ Labour in Hampstead and Kilburn

Lord Melvyn Bragg. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

Lord Melvyn Bragg. Picture: Nigel Sutton. - Credit: Nigel Sutton

Labour peer Lord Melvyn Bragg has slammed his party’s mansion tax policy, warning it may have “wiped out” Hampstead and Kilburn as a Labour seat.

Lord Parry Mitchell. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

Lord Parry Mitchell. Picture: Nigel Sutton. - Credit: Nigel Sutton

The broadcaster and author, who has lived in Hampstead for more than 40 years, fears Labour could struggle to keep hold of the constituency at next year’s general election as a result of the tax plans.

Last month, Labour leader Ed Miliband announced proposals for an annual levy on all homes worth £2million-plus in order to raise £1.2billion to spend on the NHS, including 8,000 new GPs and 20,000 more nurses.

Critics claim the tax will unfairly hit homeowners in desirable areas, such as Hampstead and Highgate, who are not cash-rich but live in properties that have risen steeply in value over the years.

Lord Bragg, 75, who joins Hampstead and Kilburn MP Glenda Jackson in opposing the mansion tax, said: “It may have wiped out Hampstead as a Labour seat. It’s a very crude weapon, I think the middle classes are taxed pretty hard as it is.

“I think if they put more effort into clawing back massive tax avoidance from pop groups, comedians, actors and sports people, they’d make more money back in a month than they would in a year from the mansion tax.

“It’s the biggest scandal – they let sports personalities and pop celebrities get away with murder and they should do something about it before they start swinging the axe about the place.

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“It is going to be grotesquely unfair. Most of the people in London probably couldn’t afford to buy the houses they live in today.”

Figures compiled by estate agents Knight Frank show that currently 4,783 households in Hampstead and Kilburn would be hit by the tax.

Based on estimates that about 100,000 homes nationally will be affected by the mansion tax, the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) says the average levy would be £12,000 annually.

It is a policy which Lord Bragg believes could make the difference electorally for Labour in Hampstead and Kilburn – the tightest marginal constituency in Great Britain – where Ms Jackson beat Conservative Chris Philp by just 42 votes in the 2010 election.

He said: “I hope it won’t. Tulip [Siddiq, Labour’s parliamentary candidate] is a tremendous candidate – she would be a great asset for a Labour government – and although it will be a blow, I hope it will be surmountable.”

Another Labour peer, Lord Parry Mitchell, 71, who has also lived in Hampstead for more than 40 years, said he supported “the principle of people being taxed on their assets” but conceded the “devil is in the detail” of the policy – insisting he was “absolutely against” levying a tax on those who cannot afford it.

But Lord Mitchell was adamant that the policy would not affect Ms Siddiq’s election chances and could even “help her”.

“There are tons living in Kilburn who like the mansion tax,” he said. “I think she will gain voters in the less well-off areas.

“The majority of the people who come into the mansion tax category were probably going to vote Conservative anyhow.”