Myleene Klass clashed with Ed Miliband over the mansion tax. Photo: Getty
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Why Ed Miliband's bizarre mansion tax feud with Myleene Klass works in Labour's favour

A former popstar's attack on the Labour leader's tax proposals could help him out.

Last night on ITV's The Agenda, an intriguing new genre of the political panel format was invented: minor early-noughties celebrities scolding party leaders. Unsurprisingly, it went well with the internet, and soon articles popped up everywhere suggesting that Myleene Klass – star of stage and screen (Hear'Say and M&S adverts) – had "owned", or gone "full Paxman" on, Ed Miliband over his proposal for a mansion tax.

Here's what she had to say:

For me, it's so disturbing – the name in its own right: 'mansion tax'. Immediately you conjure up an image of these Barbie-esque houses, but in London, which is where 80 per cent of the people who will be paying this tax actually live, have you seen what that amount of money can get you? It's like a garage.

When you do look at the people who will be suffering this tax, it's true a lot of them are grannies who have had these houses in their families for a long, long time. 

The people who are the super-super rich buying their houses for £140m, this is not necessarily going to affect them because they’ve got their tax rebates and amazing accountants. It’s going to be the little grannies who have lived in those houses for years and years.

For all her passion, and the fact that it is mordibly wonderful to watch one-time Popstars contestants having a go at nonplussed politicos, this row could work in Miliband's favour. 

Not only has Klass' suggestion that £2m will only land you a "garage" in London received a great deal of mockery but the mansion tax is an undeniably popular policy. YouGov recently found that it is supported by 72 per cent of people. As well as this, a majority of people want more money spent on the NHS, which is what Miliband's mansion tax would pay for. This row will do more to bring an already overwhelmingly popular policy proposal to the attention of voters than embarrass Miliband.

Also he did a Hear'Say pun:

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn prompts Tory outrage as he blames Grenfell Tower fire on austerity

To Conservative cries of "shame on you!", the Labour leader warned that "we all pay a price in public safety" for spending cuts.

A fortnight after the Grenfell Tower fire erupted, the tragedy continues to cast a shadow over British politics. Rather than probing Theresa May on the DUP deal, Jeremy Corbyn asked a series of forensic questions on the incident, in which at least 79 people are confirmed to have died.

In the first PMQs of the new parliament, May revealed that the number of buildings that had failed fire safety tests had risen to 120 (a 100 per cent failure rate) and that the cladding used on Grenfell Tower was "non-compliant" with building regulations (Corbyn had asked whether it was "legal").

After several factual questions, the Labour leader rose to his political argument. To cries of "shame on you!" from Tory MPs, he warned that local authority cuts of 40 per cent meant "we all pay a price in public safety". Corbyn added: “What the tragedy of Grenfell Tower has exposed is the disastrous effects of austerity. The disregard for working-class communities, the terrible consequences of deregulation and cutting corners." Corbyn noted that 11,000 firefighters had been cut and that the public sector pay cap (which Labour has tabled a Queen's Speech amendment against) was hindering recruitment. "This disaster must be a wake-up call," he concluded.

But May, who fared better than many expected, had a ready retort. "The cladding of tower blocks did not start under this government, it did not start under the previous coalition governments, the cladding of tower blocks began under the Blair government," she said. “In 2005 it was a Labour government that introduced the regulatory reform fire safety order which changed the requirements to inspect a building on fire safety from the local fire authority to a 'responsible person'." In this regard, however, Corbyn's lack of frontbench experience is a virtue – no action by the last Labour government can be pinned on him. 

Whether or not the Conservatives accept the link between Grenfell and austerity, their reluctance to defend continued cuts shows an awareness of how politically vulnerable they have become (No10 has announced that the public sector pay cap is under review).

Though Tory MP Philip Davies accused May of having an "aversion" to policies "that might be popular with the public" (he demanded the abolition of the 0.7 per cent foreign aid target), there was little dissent from the backbenches – reflecting the new consensus that the Prime Minister is safe (in the absence of an attractive alternative).

And May, whose jokes sometimes fall painfully flat, was able to accuse Corbyn of saying "one thing to the many and another thing to the few" in reference to his alleged Trident comments to Glastonbury festival founder Michael Eavis. But the Labour leader, no longer looking fearfully over his shoulder, displayed his increased authority today. Though the Conservatives may jeer him, the lingering fear in Tory minds is that they and the country are on divergent paths. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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