UK opposition challenger eyes 'socialist revolution'

Labour MP Owen Smith speaks during his campaign launch near Cardiff in south Wales on July 17, 2016, where he announced his candidacy to be leader of the British opposition Labour Party (AFP Photo/Geoff Caddick) (AFP/File)

London (AFP) - Owen Smith, who is battling to lead Britain's main opposition Labour Party, pledged Wednesday to launch a "socialist revolution" if he wins his leadership challenge.

Smith is running against leftist stalwart Jeremy Corbyn, who despite popularity with grassroots members has lost the support of at least 75 percent of the party's MPs, following Britain's vote to leave the EU.

Smith 46, launched a range of new tax and spending proposals on Wednesday.

"We need a revolution," he said, in an apparent swipe at 67-year-old Corbyn.

"Not some misty-eyed, romantic notion of a revolution where we are going to overthrow capitalism and return to a socialist nirvana... but a cold-eyed, practical socialist revolution where we build a better Britain."

He set out a platform of resetting the highest income tax band to 50 percent and reversing cuts to inheritance and capital gains taxes.

Smith also proposed a wealth tax of 15 percent on "unearned income from investment", charged on people with a taxable income of £150,000 ($198,000, 180,000 euros) a year or more.

He also apologised after saying of Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May that he wanted to "smash her back on her heels".

"We should be smashing the Tories back on their heels. Their ideals, their values, let's smash them," he added.

His spokesman said later: "On reflection it was an inappropriate choice of phrase and he apologises for using it."

Chosen by party members, trade unionists and registered supporters, the winner of the two-man contest will be announced on September 24.

Labour has been in deep crisis since the Brexit referendum, with most of its MPs believing Corbyn is an incapable leader driving the party towards a third crushing general election defeat in 2020.

An online ICM poll of 2,012 adults conducted between Friday and Sunday put the centre-right Conservatives up four points on 43 percent and Labour down two on 27 percent.

The anti-EU UK Independence Party was on 13 percent and the centrist Liberal Democrats on eight percent.

Meanwhile a YouGov survey for The Times newspaper gave the Conservatives 40 percent of the vote share and Labour 28 percent -- the biggest gap they have recorded since the Conservatives came to power in 2010.

"Clearly, the relative calm associated with the handover of power from David Cameron to Theresa May, allied to the current Labour leadership challenge weighs heavily on electors' minds," said ICM's Martin Boon.