Sadiq Khan U-turns on pledge to back mansion tax
Sadiq Khan last night promised to fight any attempt to impose a mansion tax on Londoners, despite previously defending the policy while running to be Labour's mayoral candidate.
Khan, who was elected on the back of members who joined to support Jeremy Corbyn, was the only prospective Labour mayoral candidate who refused to openly criticise the controversial tax.
Khan was a leading defender of the tax among London MPs. In the run up to the general election, he accused its critics in the business community of "scaremongering" about its impact and called for police to investigate one estate agents who leafleted against the policy.
When Tessa Jowell, David Lammy and Diane Abbott repeatedly attacked the policy, Khan said it was a "an issue of basic fairness and equality," and challenged his potential rivals to explain how they would pay to "save the NHS" without the tax.
"Those who have opposed the Mansion Tax have to explain to hard-working Londoners why they think it’s unfair to ask the very wealthiest to contribute just a little bit more, and why they are opposed to hiring thousands more nurses and doctors to help save London’s NHS," he said in 2014.
However, Khan told a meeting of top London business leaders last night that he would personally fight any attempt to impose a mansion tax while he remained mayor.
"The mansion tax is dead and buried," he told a meeting of the business organisation London First.
"It's gone. We lost the last general election badly and there used to be a saying my party had in the eighties which was 'no compromise with the electorate'. We lost four elections in a row. So I'm live to the lessons of history. So no to the mansion tax while I'm mayor."
Sadiq Khan appealing for the support of London business leaders last night
Despite suggesting that he had ditched his support for the policy after losing the general election, Khan actually continued to support it after announcing his bid for mayor in the wake of the general election.
Khan backed the tax immediately after announcing his mayoral bid, telling the Evening Standard that: "Most people understood the reasons why the mansion tax needed to be brought in."
A month later at a Labour hustings event in June, Khan was the only candidate on stage who refused to explicitly distance himself from the policy.
Asked whether he still supported it, Khan replied that he was "proudly of the view that those with the broadest shoulders should carry the greatest burden," adding that "I won't walk away from that."
He went on to repeat his suggestion that the tax was necessary to pay for NHS funding.
"Because our economic credibility is at stake we have to explain how we would pay for the time to care fund for extra doctors," he told the audience.
However, he suggested that he would support higher top rates of council tax as an alternative way of funding the pledge.
"The real problem is the cowardice of successive governments not to revalue council tax. What we should do is have additional bands so that Roman Abramovich doesn't pay the same amount as Tessa Jowell," he added.
Last night he was pushed by Robert Grundy, a director of Savills Estate agents, to state whether he would "increase the tax burden on Londoners" as mayor.
Khan replied that: "The research Savills does is really good and I wish you would read some of it because you would realise the ability of the London mayor to raise council tax is limited."
On the mansion tax, he added that it was "not in my gift as mayor. I couldn't do it if I wanted to."
Khan also used his appearance last night to praise the current Conservative mayor. He said Boris Johnson had been an "excellent" salesman for London. He also committed to "campaigning alongside David Cameron and George Osborne" in the EU referendum campaign.