Pledges on equality from candidate
Smith sets out plans for tax and spend strategy
Mr Smith railed against inequality, claiming: “People feel the system is rigged against them. And they are angry about it. And let me be very clear. They are right to be angry about it. They are right to be furious about the inequality that still exists.”
The former Shadow Work and Pensions minister is challenging Jeremy Corbyn in a contest for the leadership of the Labour party, which will be decided on 24 September.
Speaking at a former coking plant in South Yorkshire, he championed employment rights, promising to scrap the department he was shadowing and replace it with a Department for Social Security and a Ministry of Labour.
Other key employment policy proposals included ending the public sector pay freeze and banning zero hours contracts.
To counter this, he promised a Labour government that would “smash austerity” and build “a future of fair taxes, fair employment and fair funding”.
In an appeal to trade unionists who make up a sizeable contingent of Mr Corbyn’s supporters, he said: “Trade unions give people a voice at work. That’s why the Tory Government hates them so much.
“So if I was Prime Minister, on day one, I’d set to work on repealing the vicious and vindictive Trade Union Act.”
Soon to come into effect, the Act will make it harder for workers to organise action against their employers.
Me Smith also pledged to increase the amount of tax paid by businesses and wealthy citizens in order to fund public services like libraries, schools and hospitals. He spoke about reversing Tory tax policies, including cuts to both inheritance and capital gains tax that were announced in the Summer Budget.
He also promised that the 50p top rate of tax – “the Tories’ tax cut for millionaires” – would be reinstated. In addition, a wealth tax of 15% would be introduced on the investment earnings of the richest 1% in the UK, which Mr Smith claimed would raise £3 billion annually.
He said he would increase NHS funding by 4% in real terms every year, compared to the current 1% annual increase under the Conservative government.
Other policy proposals laid out by Smith included:
- A pledge to focus on equality of outcome, not equality of opportunity
- Introducing modern wages councils for hotel, shop and care workers to strengthen terms and conditions
- Extending the right to information and consultation to cover all workplaces with more than 50 employees
- Ensuring workers’ representation on remuneration committees
- Commit to bringing NHS funding up to the European average within the first term of a Labour Government.
- A British New Deal unveiling £200bn of investment over five years.
- A commitment to invest tens of billions in the North of England, and to bring forward High Speed A pledge to build 300,000 homes in every year of the next parliament – 1.5 million over five years.
- Ending the scandal of fuel poverty by investing in efficient energy.
He reiterated the importance of repairing inequality. “Our job is to level the playing field for individuals and whole communities. So that wherever you live, or whatever disadvantages you set out with, you can live a good life,” he said.
He finished by denouncing Mr Corbyn as an idealist. “But to achieve that we need revolution not evolution. Not some misty-eyed romanticism about a revolution to overthrow capitalism. But a cold-eyed and practical revolution, through a radical Labour Government that puts in place the laws and the levers that can genuinely even things up.”
Inequality was a central theme throughout his speech, in an effort to win over Corbyn supporters.
He announced last week that he had hired Neale Coleman, former head of policy for Mr Corbyn, to come aboard his leadership campaign.
A spokesperson for the Jeremy for Labour campaign said this illustrated Mr Corbyn’s influence on the direction of the Labour Party.. “Owen’s speech today shows the leadership that Jeremy Corbyn has demonstrated in placing economic justice and fairness back at the heart of Labour politics,” he said.
“Under Jeremy, Labour has put restoring dignity and pride in our communities worst hit by decades of neglect at the core of our politics.”
Mr Smith faces an uphill struggle to convince Labour supporters that he is the right leader. The results of a Opinium/Observer poll published on the 23 July revealed that Mr Corbyn is still enjoying more than twice the number of supporters as Mr Smith.