Andrew Adonis's recent comments on a mansion tax, reported in today's FT, have attracted much attention this morning. The Labour peer and shadow infrastructure minister told an IPPR/Policy Network event: "The single policy that Labour has which is most unpopular – that every time I meet anybody who is at all well off I get it in the neck with clockwork regularity – is the mansion tax."
The Tories, who have long opposed the policy ("our donors will never put up with it," said David Cameron) have pounced on his words as evidence of a Labour split. Grant Shapps said: "Lord Adonis is right. Labour's demand for a new tax on the family home would be economic vandalism. It would hurt poorer pensioners the most.
"It would also be the thin end of the wedge. It would quickly become a tax on ordinary homes, hitting families in their pay-packets each month. It would clobber renters too, as the costs would simply be passed on to them."
But when I spoke to Adonis, who has just begun his week-long tour of London's bus routes (riding 50 in total), he was keen to rebut Shapps's claims. He told me:
I support the mansion tax, it's socially just. The very well off don't support it, as I said, but that's not a surprise since they'd pay it.
Adonis also emphasised, however, that it was important that the policy, which would take the form of a 1 per cent levy on property values above £2m, was introduced "in a fair way", "particularly in respect of existing homeowners whose houses have appreciated dramatically in value."
Several of Labour's potential London mayoral candidates, of whom Adonis is one, have recently come out against the policy. Diane Abbott and David Lammy both criticised it as "a tax on London", while Tessa Jowell said she favoured higher council tax bands instead. But Adonis made it clear that he won't be joining them. As he noted, "I was the only person at the Progress event [on London after Boris Johnson] to support it."