UK Politics

Burnham says Labour 'too timid' about raising taxes

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Media captionLabour leadership profile: Andy Burnham

Labour leadership candidate Andy Burnham has said further tax rises should be considered to cut the deficit, saying the party has been "too timid" on the issue in the past.

He told the BBC News Channel he would make a "moral case" for tax playing a bigger part in reducing borrowing as opposed to even deeper spending cuts.

While "nobody likes tax", he said cuts could "wreck entire lives".

Mr Burnham is one of five candidates standing in the contest.

He and the other contenders - Ed Balls, David Miliband, Ed Miliband and Diane Abbott - are taking part in hustings around the country with the result of the election to be announced at the party's conference in September.

Outlining his thinking on the economy, the former health secretary said he would increase the planned bank tax, consider scrapping some of the tax relief on pensions and also refused to rule out increasing income tax.

'Principled argument'

"I would make a principled argument for tax playing a bigger part in the reduction of the deficit," he said.

"Why do I say that? Well I say that because nobody likes tax, but when you look at the alternative tax versus cuts, tax makes life a bit harder for the person who's on the receiving end for the time that the tax increase is levied, cuts can wreck entire lives."

Mr Burnham was reluctant to say if he would support any of the coalition government's planned cuts, but said the NHS budget should not be ringfenced as planned by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

Mr Burnham, who served in Cabinet alongside Ed Balls, David Miliband and Ed Miliband, said that in recent years Labour became "dazzled by power, money and glamour" and was ruled by a "small Westminster elite that issued diktats to the Labour Party".

"We didn't appear to be on the side of ordinary people and we didn't really understand what people's lives were like now," he said.

'Ordinary background'

And the BBC News Channel's chief political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg said he appeared to criticise the background of the Miliband brothers - whose father was a prominent left wing intellectual - contrasting it with this own life experience.

"I've come from a very ordinary background myself, and have come in to politics not from a political family or the London chattering classes. Obviously I've come in a different route."

He responded to suggestions that he was not up to job of being Labour leader by saying he was a "conviction politician with a deep sense of belief", arguing he had taken a tough stance on issues such as proposals for a national care service and private sector involvement in the NHS

"To those who say, he's a nice bloke but does he really have the steel I would point to things like that, that took conviction and actually comes from a deep sense of belief about what was right for the national health service and I did make that change against considerable opposition."

Proposals for a national care service for the elderly and disabled - funded by a levy on people's estates after their deaths - should have been included in Labour's election manifesto, he said.

"I believe at times New Labour was too timid about tax, but in this case it's a tax that will benefit everybody, a care levy on estates would provide everybody with peace of mind in later life.

"They could stop worrying about the costs of care."