The new challenger in the Labour leadership contest sums up everything wrong with the Blairites

Jessica Gay

Former shadow cabinet member, Owen Smith has announced he will stand for the Labour leadership.

The Pontypridd MP, who resigned as the shadow work and pensions secretary last month, will join Angela Eagle in the battle against Jeremy Corbyn.

Labour’s National Executive Committee has decided Corbyn will automatically be included in the contest, something which many rebels did not agree with. Although this was a decision Smith supported, he openly criticised Corbyn’s ability to lead the party:

Jeremy is a good man with great Labour values … but he is not a leader who can lead us into an election and win for Labour.

Smith went on to state:

Over the last week, I have been contacted by hundreds of Labour members and MPs deeply worried that the Labour Party is truly in danger of splitting apart. I share those fears and call on everyone in our movement to do all we can to avert such a disastrous outcome. I stand ready to do anything I can, to save and serve the party.

Interestingly, while Smith has stated that he did not want to see a split in the Labour party, and did not take part in the coup orchestrated against Corbyn, fellow Labour MP John Mann has revealed that he was asked to support Owen Smith in a leadership bid six months ago.

Although this doesn’t confirm Smith’s involvement in the coup, it certainly confirms his knowledge of the plans, his willingness to cause a divide in the party and his active preparations to stand against and oust the Labour leader.

Smith’s leadership plans

When asked about his plans to stand in the leadership election, Smith revealed:

I have a radical and credible set of policies. I want to put that to the membership, I want to make my case to be the next leader of not just the Labour party but the next Labour prime minister.

It will be interesting to hear Smith’s “radical and credible” policies aimed at helping Labour supporters, given his very poor track record.

Last year, despite pledging to oppose the Tory’s £12 billion welfare cuts, and arguing in the Shadow Cabinet at the time against abstaining on the vote, the voting record confirms that Smith did indeed abstain.

Similarly, Smith came into disagreement with Corbyn over the government’s benefits cap, which puts a limit on the amount of benefits a family can receive.  While Corbyn fought to oppose the benefits cap, Smith undermined the party leader, stating that the party was only opposing government plans to reduce the cap.

Smith’s “revolving-door” connection to pharma giant Pfizer

Before being elected  as an MP for Pontypridd in May 2010, Smith worked from 2005 – 2008 as a lobbyist for one of the world’s biggest drugs companies, US-based Pfizer. Working as the head of policy and government relations in Pfizer Global Pharmaceuticals’ UK communications team, Smith earned £80,000 a year.

Described as “asset-stripping and tax-minimising” even by the likes of Theresa May, Pfizer has come under attack on numerous occasions for its over priced, monopolising drugs business. In 2001, Oxfam lambasted Pfizer over its charging policies in the developing world, claiming the firm put lifesaving drugs out of reach of millions of people.

Similarly, in 2009, a Wikileaks cable revealed that Pfizer hired investigators to find evidence of corruption on the Nigerian attorney general in order to persuade him to drop legal action against them. The case regarded a group of Nigerian medical experts who claimed that Pfizer violated international law, by testing an unapproved drug on children with brain infections in Nigeria.

Interestingly, while Smith claims to support anti-austerity and strongly oppose the privatisation of the public services including the NHS, his career history and work with a private heath care company certainly suggests otherwise.

Moreover, it has been revealed that Pfizer has helped fund the ‘Blairite’ think thank Progress, donating more than £40,000 to the group. Pfizer has funded think tanks across the right for decades. With the aim of making money, their donations have also allowed them to push a particular narrative in politics and encourage members to back support for private pharmaceutical companies.

While Smith has revealed very little about his work with Pfizer, he is on record supporting Pfizer’s policy of protecting its patents. He has also echoed the managing director of Pfizer UK, Olivier Brandicourt’s sentiments that the industry needs to protect commercially valuable intellectual property. This certainly doesn’t sound very pro-NHS.

When asked about the involvement of the private sector in the NHS, Smith said:

Where they can bring good ideas, where they can bring valuable services that the NHS is not able to deliver, and where they can work alongside but subservient to the NHS and without diminishing in any respect the public service ethos of the NHS, then I think that’s fine. I think if their involvement means in any way, shape or form the break up of the NHS, then I’m not a fan of it, but I don’t think it does.

What else is there to say about Owen Smith? As a man who claims to support traditional Labour voters and fight against austerity, his track record certainly doesn’t stand up to his claims. His extensive career history with Pfizer, a monopolising drugs company which helps fund multiple think tanks to worm its agenda into British politics, doesn’t put him in good stead as a pro-NHS supporter.

Featured image via YouTube

 

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