OWEN Smith has pledged a workplace revolution and vowed to "smash" austerity by squeezing the rich with a new £3 billion a year wealth tax.

In a keynote speech, the Labour leadership contender forcefully criticised Jeremy Corbyn, saying he had provided “weak opposition for the last nine months.”

In a clear swipe at the party leader, the MP for Pontypridd said: "We need a revolution. Not some misty-eyed, romantic notion of a revolution where we are going to overthrow capitalism and return to a socialist nirvana - I don't know who I'm referring to - but a cold-eyed, practical socialist revolution where we build a better Britain, where we look the country in the eye and say: 'This is possible, it can be better, we can build a better, brighter future.'

"We have done it before, we can do it again. That's the sort of government I want to lead; that's the sort of revolution I want to bring," he declared.

The former shadow work and pensions secretary suggested Labour had been too weak in the face of Conservative dominance and insisted the party should be “smashing Theresa May back on her heels”.

Mr Smith brushed off suggestions that his “robust rhetoric” about the Prime Minister - which was not included in the prepared text of his speech - was at odds with his professed commitment to equality.

"We should be smashing the Tories back on their heels,” he declared. “Their ideals, their values, let's smash them, let's get Labour in. It's rhetoric, I don't literally want to smash Theresa May back on her heels, I'm not advocating violence in any shape or form," the Welsh MP explained.

But a spokesman for Mr Corbyn's re-election campaign said: "We need to be careful of the language we use during this contest as many members, including many female Labour MPs, have said they feel intimidated by aggressive language.

"Jeremy has consistently called for a kinder, gentler politics. We should all reflect that in our political rhetoric."

Pressed on his choice of language, Mr Smith admitted: “Perhaps it backfired but we should have a bit of robust language in politics.” Later, an aide admitted the remark was “an inappropriate choice of phrase and he apologises for using it".

In his “fair play” speech, delivered at the highly-symbolic site of the former Orgreave coking plant in South Yorkshire, scene of a major confrontation between police and pickets during the 1984 miners' strike, Mr Smith promised not only a wealth tax on the investment earnings of the top one per cent in the UK but also a return to the 50p top rate of income tax.

Other policies included creating a “British New Deal” with £200 billion of investment over five years, a commitment to invest tens of billions in the North of England and to bring forward the Manchester to Leeds High Speed 3 rail link and building 300,000 homes in every year of the next parliament ie 1.5 million over five years.