Has the mansion tax backfired?

Delegates are concerned the policy was "bounced" on leading Lib Dems

From Bournemouth

Vince Cable's "mansion tax" went down well with the left of the party yesterday. But there's palpable anger among some delegates at the way the policy was bounced on the conference and on some leading Lib Dems.

It emerged this morning that Julia Goldsworthy, the party's communities and local government spokesperson, who is responsible for local taxation policy, had not been informed of the policy change.

Many now feel that the confusion over the property tax -- is it temporary or permanent? Will properties be revalued? -- could have been avoided through a more open discussion prior to the conference.

The Liberal Democrats pride themselves on their image as the most democratic and open of the main parties, but activists increasingly fear that, like Labour and the Tories earlier, ever more power is being transferred to the leader's office.

I'm off to watch Vince Cable and Charles Clarke in action on the fringe now. Clarke is the only Labour figure I've seen in Bournemouth and he's always been open to discussion with Nick Clegg's party. But as the Lib Dems turn their guns on the Tories, where does he now stand on a possible coalition? We should find out.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Owen Smith apologises for pledge to "smash" Theresa May "back on her heels"

The Labour leader challenger has retracted his comments. 

Labour leader challenger Owen Smith has apologised for pledging to "smash" Theresa May "back on her heels", a day after vigorously defending his comments.

During a speech at a campaign event on Wednesday, Smith had declared of the prime minister, known for wearing kitten heels:

"I'll be honest with you, it pained me that we didn’t have the strength and the power and the vitality to smash her back on her heels and argue that these our values, these are our people, this is our language that they are seeking to steal.”

When pressed about his use of language, Smith told journalists he was using "robust rhetoric" and added: "I absolutely stand by those comments."

But on Thursday, a spokesman for the campaign said Smith regretted his choice of words: "It was off script and on reflection it was an inappropriate choice of phrase and he apologises for using it."

Since the murder of the MP Jo Cox in June, there has been attempt by some in politics to tone down the use of violent metaphors and imagery. 

Others though, have stuck with it - despite Jeremy Corbyn's call for a "kinder, gentler politics" his shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, described rebel MPs as a "lynch mob without the rope"

Smith's language has come under scrutiny before. In 2010, when writing about the Tory/Lib-Dem coalition, he asked: "Surely, the Liberal will file for divorce as soon as the bruises start to show through the make-up?"

After an outcry over the domestic violence metaphor, Smith edited the piece.