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Owen Smith

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For other people named Owen Smith, see Owen Smith (disambiguation).
Owen Smith
MP
Owen Smith 2013 (cropped).jpg
Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
In office
14 September 2015 – 27 June 2016
Leader Jeremy Corbyn
Shadowing Iain Duncan Smith
Stephen Crabb
Preceded by Stephen Timms (Acting)
Succeeded by Debbie Abrahams
Shadow Secretary of State for Wales
In office
15 May 2012 – 14 September 2015
Leader Ed Miliband
Harriet Harman
Shadowing Cheryl Gillan
David Jones
Stephen Crabb
Preceded by Peter Hain
Succeeded by Nia Griffith
Shadow Minister for Wales
In office
25 September 2010 – 15 May 2012
Leader Ed Miliband
Preceded by Wayne David
Succeeded by Nia Griffith
Member of Parliament
for Pontypridd
Assumed office
6 May 2010
Preceded by Kim Howells
Majority 8,585 (22.5%)
Personal details
Born (1970-05-02) 2 May 1970 (age 46)
Morecambe, England, UK
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Wood (m. 1995)[citation needed][1]
Alma mater University of Sussex

Owen Smith (born 2 May 1970)[2] is a British Labour Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Pontypridd since 2010.[3]

Before being elected to Parliament, Smith worked as a radio and television producer for the BBC, as a special adviser for Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy, and as a political lobbyist for Pfizer.[4][2] Smith went on to serve as Shadow Welsh Secretary under Ed Miliband from 2012 until 2015, and then as Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary under Jeremy Corbyn from 2015 until he resigned in June 2016.

On 13 July 2016, he announced his intention to stand for the leadership of the Labour Party. On 19 July, he became the sole challenger to Jeremy Corbyn in the leadership election.[5] He has been described as being on the 'soft left' of the Labour Party, with Kevin Maguire of the Daily Mirror noting Smith's politics "largely overlap when it comes to policy" with Corbyn's.[6]

Early life and career

Smith was born in Morecambe, Lancashire,[7] the son of the Welsh historian and writer David "Dai" Smith,[8] a former chair of the Arts Council of Wales. He was brought up in Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, and attended Barry Comprehensive School. He joined the Labour Party at the age of 16. He later studied History and French at the University of Sussex.[7] He worked for the BBC as a radio producer for 10 years, working on a variety of programmes in both Wales and London, including Today for BBC Radio 4 and the weekly politics programme Dragon's Eye for BBC Cymru Wales.[9]

Smith then entered the biotechnology and pharmaceuticals industry for five years, and in 2005 became Head of Policy and Government Relations for pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer. After leaving Pfizer in September 2008, he joined Amgen, another pharmaceutical company.[10]

Political career

Before parliament

In 2002 he became a special adviser for Paul Murphy, then the Secretary of State for Wales.[7] He later followed Murphy to the Northern Ireland Office.

In 2006, while still Head of Policy and Government Relations for Pfizer, Smith fought the 2006 Blaenau Gwent by-election. At the time Smith said that Pfizer had been "extremely supportive" of his aspirations to public office.[11] Smith lost to independent candidate Dai Davies: Smith polled 37% of the vote while Davies polled 46.2%. During the by-election campaign, Smith spoke with Wales Online and expressed his support for the private sector playing a supportive role in the NHS, private finance initiative (PFI) schemes,[4] but has since described such schemes as a failure.[12]

Member of Parliament

Subsequently he was appointed as the candidate for the Labour safe seat of Pontypridd and won it by a margin of 2,785 votes in the 2010 general election, a much narrower margin than that of the previous Labour MP, Kim Howells, with the Labour majority falling by 25.7%. He then joined the Welsh Affairs Select Committee and was appointed a shadow minister for Wales.[13]

In 2012 he was promoted to Ed Miliband's Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, after Peter Hain stepped down.

Smith was named as a potential contender in the 2015 Labour leadership election to replace Ed Miliband.[14] Ultimately, nothing came of this. On 14 September 2015, he was named as the new Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, following the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party. On 9 January 2016, he voiced an interest in eventually standing for Labour leadership, saying it would be an "incredible honour and privilege" to do the job.[15]

On 27 June 2016, in the mass resignations from the Labour benches following the Leave vote in the EU membership referendum, he announced he was stepping down as the Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. Smith resigned over concerns about the leadership of Corbyn, saying "It breaks my heart to say I cannot see how he can continue as leader."[16]

Labour leadership election, 2016

On 10 July 2016, Owen Smith claimed Corbyn and his allies were prepared to see the party split. He wrote on Twitter: "On July [sic] 27 I asked @jeremycorbyn 3 times if he was prepared to see our party split & worse, wanted it to. He offered no answer".[17] He continued, "In the same meeting, in response to the same question @johnmcdonnellMP shrugged his shoulders and said 'if that's what it takes'."[18][19]

On 13 July 2016, Smith announced his intention to stand as a candidate in the leadership ballot. He said that he supported many of Corbyn's policies but that Corbyn was "not a leader who can lead us into an election and win for Labour."[20] He suggested that the party's MPs or NEC could choose between him and Angela Eagle, so that only one of the two would go forward to a ballot. He postponed the scheduled official launch of his campaign in Pontypridd on 15 July following the Bastille Day attack in Nice, which he described as "heartbreaking".[21] In launching his campaign on 17 July, he called for a rewriting of Clause IV of the party's constitution to make a specific reference to tackling inequality, which he said should be "right at the heart of everything that we do".[22]

On 18 July 2016, Angela Eagle pulled out of the leadership race because she had approximately 20 fewer nominations than Smith. In an interview, Smith offered the following endorsement of the former contender: "Angela is a star in the Labour firmament. She will be at my right hand throughout this contest and if I am successful, Angela will be alongside me as my right hand woman."[23][24] He explained that his decision to run for leader was partly because the future of the Labour party was at risk, stating that the "possibility of split is dangerously real".[25]

On 24 September 2016, Jeremy Corbyn defeated Owen Smith at the Labour leadership election.

Political positions

Smith identifies as a democratic socialist.[26] In a July 2016 interview with The Guardian he stated, "I'm someone who believes that we live in a capitalist society and that the Labour party is about trying to achieve socialism within that ... Ameliorating the situation, not overthrowing it by revolution."[12] In an interview with Channel 4 News, Smith specified his position as follows: "I am on the left of the Labour Party, I share many of Jeremy's values but I think I can talk about modernising those values".[27] He has named Nye Bevan as his political hero.[28]

Economic issues

Smith opposes austerity and has been strongly critical of Chancellor George Osborne's plan of public spending cuts.[28] In May 2010, he apologised for an online article in which he compared the coalition government's austerity programme to domestic violence.[29] As Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Smith attacked the government's welfare reforms, calling the bedroom tax "unlawful and discriminatory".[30] He followed the party whip by abstaining on the Welfare Reform and Work bill at its second reading on 20 July 2015,[31] after voting for an amendment that set out the party's objections to aspects of it.[32] On 27 October, Smith followed the party whip by voting against the bill at its third reading.[33]

In regards to tax, Smith has promised to reverse cuts in Corporation Tax due to take place up until 2020 whilst reversing the cuts made to Capital Gains Tax and Inheritance Tax in the Summer Budget.[34]

At the launch of his party leadership campaign in July 2016, he proposed that £200 billion be invested to "rebuild Britain", defined by the BBC as "building new infrastructure and council housing".[27] He also suggested that income tax rates on the highest paid should be increased, with a top rate of 50%, claiming that recent party policy had been "too timid".[35] In an interview with The Guardian in mid-July, Smith said that housing – doubling the number of homes built – would be an important part of his platform.[36]

Employment

In late July 2016, Smith said that, if elected leader of the Labour Party, he would ban zero-hour contracts and end the public sector pay freeze, saying that "The public sector pay freeze cannot continue while the costs – of housing and heating, transport and childcare – continue to rise".[37][38] He said he would also reintroduce Wage Councils for hotel, shop and care workers, most of which were abolished during the 1980s and 1990s. He said about the councils that "I think there's a real case for re-inventing modern wage councils, operating sector by sector, looking at the specific terms and conditions in individual sectors and arguing for better terms and wages for workers in those sectors ... They are very powerful way in which you have an independent debate about the right wage levels and argue in that forum for better terms and conditions".[39][40] In his 2016 leadership bid, Smith released proposals for policies aimed at improving workers rights such as a repeal of the 'Trade Unions Act' and a commitment to ensure workers' representation on remuneration committees. Smith also proposed replacing the current Department of Work and Pensions with a new 'Ministry for Labour' and a revived Department for Social Security.[41][42]

European Union

Smith supported the campaign for Britain to remain in the European Union, in the referendum on Britain's membership in June 2016.[43] On 13 July 2016, following the vote to leave the EU, three weeks prior, he pledged that he would press for an early general election or offer a further referendum on the final 'Brexit' deal drawn up by the new Prime Minister, were he to be elected Labour leader.[44] He also said: "I don't think we should accept we're on a definite path out. I think we need to make sure people are satisfied".[35] According to The Guardian, Smith is in favour of a second referendum on "whatever Brexit deal May's team negotiates with the other 27 EU member states",[36] although a BBC report describes his position as "Would be 'tempted' to call a second EU referendum."[27]

Smith later said that those who voted with the Leave faction had done so "because they felt a sense of loss in their communities, decline, cuts that have hammered away at vital public services and they haven't felt that any politicians, certainly not the politicians they expect to stand up for them, the Labour Party, has been standing up for them." His recommendation was to "put in place concrete policies that will bring real improvements to people's lives so I'm talking about a British New Deal for every part of Britain ..."[45]

NHS

During a speech in South Yorkshire in July 2016, he said he wanted to create a tax on the richest 1% in society, which would be at a rate of 15% on unearned income for earners over £150,000 a year, which would help to fund the NHS. He said that this would raise £3 billion for the health service. He then went on to say that he would give the NHS an extra 4% funding per year.[46][37]

Nuclear defence

When interviewed on the Today programme in July 2016, Smith revealed that he used to be a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and "fundamentally wants the world to be without nuclear bombs."[47] He has described himself as being a "sceptic" of the Trident nuclear programme and as favouring a multilateralist approach to nuclear disarmament (a position he noted as being Bevanite).[48] In the weeks before the 2015 general election, he told a hustings audience that he regretted Ed Miliband's policy to renew Trident, saying: "would but we could get rid of it, but I fear that we can’t."[49] In 2016, he stated that he would vote to renew Trident, saying: "I want a world without nuclear weapons altogether, but I don't think we hasten that by divesting."[35] Smith did vote in favour of the government's Trident renewal programme motion on 18 July 2016, as did another 139 Labour MPs, in line with long-standing party policy on at-sea nuclear deterrent.[50]

Military interventions

In 2006, Smith said while discussing the Iraq War that "I thought at the time the tradition of the Labour Party and the tradition of left-wing engagement to remove dictators was a noble, valuable tradition".[4] However, later during the same by-election campaign, in an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Smith argued that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake and "the world would have been a safer place if we hadn't done it."[51]

He was among 557 MPs who voted in favour of the UN-backed air strikes on Libya in 2011.[52]

In December 2015, Smith sided with the Labour leadership by opposing the government's plans for military intervention in the Syrian civil war.[53] He called for lessons to be learned from past intervention in the Middle East and a more diplomatic approach.[54]

Personal life

He is married to Liz, who is a primary school teacher,[55] and moved to Llantrisant after being elected in 2010, having previously lived in Surrey. He has three children.[27][56]

References

  1. ^ Nelson, Nigel (23 July 2016). "How Owen Smith's mining family background propelled him to become Labour leadership candidate". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 30 July 2016. he fell in love with Liz Wood, 
  2. ^ a b "Who is Owen Smith? Meet the other Labour MP who is challenging Corbyn for the leadership". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 13 July 2016. 
  3. ^ "Election 2010: Pontypridd". WalesOnline. Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c "Owen Smith on the Iraq War, working as a lobbyist and the private sector's role in the NHS". WalesOnline. Retrieved 13 July 2016. 
  5. ^ "Labour leadership contest – Angela Eagle withdraws from race". BBC News. Retrieved 2016-07-19. 
  6. ^ Kevin Maguire (13 July 2016). "Owen Smith would make a great Labour leader but can he beat the Corbynator?". Daily Mirror. 
  7. ^ a b c Riley-Smith, Ben (13 July 2016). "Profile: Owen Smith, the former BBC journalist and political adviser running to become Labour leader". The Telegraph. Retrieved 17 July 2016. 
  8. ^ Betsan Powys (2012-05-15). "Owen Smith steps into the shadows". BBC News. Retrieved 2016-07-17. 
  9. ^ "Former BBC Producer selected for Pontypridd". WalesOnline. Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  10. ^ "Revealed: Ed Miliband's Pfizer insider in the shadow Cabinet". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 13 July 2016. 
  11. ^ "Revealed: Ed Miliband's Pfizer insider in the shadow Cabinet". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 29 July 2016. 
  12. ^ a b Boffey, Daniel (16 July 2016). "Labour is miles away from government, says man out to replace Corbyn". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 July 2016. 
  13. ^ "Owen Smith". Parliament UK. Retrieved 7 April 2015. 
  14. ^ Bush, Stephen (2015-05-14). "After Ed, who's next? The six candidates vying to lead the Labour Party". Retrieved 2015-05-14. 
  15. ^ George Eaton (9 January 2016). "Exclusive: Owen Smith: I am interested in being Labour leader". New Statesman. Retrieved 10 January 2016. 
  16. ^ "Labour crisis: Griffith and Smith quit shadow cabinet". BBC. Retrieved 2016-07-12. 
  17. ^ OwenSmith_MP (10 July 2016). "On July 27 I asked @jeremycorbyn 3 times if he was prepared to see our party split & worse, wanted it to. He offered no answer" (Tweet) – via Twitter. 
  18. ^ "Owen Smith MP: Corbyn 'prepared to see Labour split'". BBC News Wales. 10 July 2016. 
  19. ^ OwenSmith_MP (10 July 2016). "2/2 in the same meeting, in response to the same question @johnmcdonnellMP shrugged his shoulders and said 'if that's what it takes.'" (Tweet) – via Twitter. 
  20. ^ Rowena Mason (2016-07-13). "Owen Smith to challenge Corbyn for Labour leadership". The Guardian. Retrieved 2016-07-17. 
  21. ^ "Owen Smith: Only one MP should challenge Corbyn". BBC News. 2016-07-15. Retrieved 2016-07-17. 
  22. ^ "Labour's Owen Smith vows to tackle inequality", BBC News, 17 July 2016. Retrieved 17 July 2016
  23. ^ Grice, Andrew (19 July 2016). "Labour leadership election: Angela Eagle pulls out of contest to allow Owen Smith straight run at Jeremy Corbyn". The Independent. London, UK. Retrieved 19 July 2016. 
  24. ^ Sparrow, Andrew; Phipps, Claire (19 July 2016). "Afternoon summary". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 July 2016. 
  25. ^ Asthana, Anushka (19 July 2016). "Owen Smith to face Corbyn in Labour leadership challenge". The Guardian. London, UK. Retrieved 19 July 2016. 
  26. ^ Williams, Zoe (17 July 2016). "Owen Smith: decent bloke, good politics. But is that enough? | Zoe Williams". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 July 2016. 
  27. ^ a b c d Wheeler, Brian (21 July 2016). "Profile: The Owen Smith story". BBC News. Retrieved 21 July 2016. 
  28. ^ a b Rowena Mason (13 July 2016). "Owen Smith: ambitious politician pitched as Labour's soft-left option". The Guardian. 
  29. ^ "MP Owen Smith sorry for domestic violence comment". BBC News. 25 May 2010. 
  30. ^ "'Bedroom tax' appeal 'flabbergasting' to Labour". BBC News. 28 January 2016. 
  31. ^ "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 20 July 2015 Division No. 51". Parliament of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 20 July 2016. 
  32. ^ Wintour, Patrick (21 July 2015). "Welfare bill: Labour in disarray as 48 MPs defy whips to vote no". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 July 2016. 
  33. ^ "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 27 Oct 2015 (pt 0004)". Parliament of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 17 July 2016. 
  34. ^ "Smith unveils wealth tax as part of 20 policies to tackle inequality | LabourList". LabourList. 27 July 2016. Retrieved 3 August 2016. 
  35. ^ a b c "Labour leadership: Labour 'too timid' on tax – Owen Smith". BBC News. 17 July 2016. 
  36. ^ a b Stewart, Heather (20 July 2016). "Owen Smith 'furious' at Corbyn's performance against Theresa May". The Guardian. London, UK. Retrieved 21 July 2016. 
  37. ^ a b Payne, Adam (27 July 2016). "Owen Smith just announced 20 policies he would bring in as prime minister – here are all of them". Business Insider. Retrieved 28 July 2016. 
  38. ^ Beattie, Jason (27 July 2016). "Owen Smith calls for a workers' revolution and scrapping of zero hours contracts". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 29 July 2016. 
  39. ^ Beattie, Jason (18 July 2016). "Owen Smith reveals plans for higher taxes and a pay rise for workers". Wales Online. Retrieved 29 July 2016. 
  40. ^ Waugh, Paul (27 July 2016). "Owen Smith Unveils 20 'Fair Play' Policies". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 29 July 2016. 
  41. ^ "Owen Smith is no 'Blairite'. His policies are egalitarian and Left-wing". Left Foot Forward. Retrieved 3 August 2016. 
  42. ^ "What are Owen Smith's policies in the Labour leadership contest?". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 3 August 2016. 
  43. ^ "EU vote: Where the cabinet and other MPs stand". BBC News. 22 June 2016. 
  44. ^ Anushka Asthana, Heather Stewart (13 July 2016). "Owen Smith to offer referendum on Brexit deal if elected Labour leader". The Guardian. 
  45. ^ Cornock, David (21 July 2016). "Owen Smith on Corbyn, leadership, devolution and Brexit". BBC Wales. Retrieved 25 July 2016. said voters backed Brexit because they didn't feel the Labour Party stood up for them, 
  46. ^ "Owen Smith proposes wealth tax to boost NHS spending". BBC News. 27 July 2016. Retrieved 28 July 2016. 
  47. ^ "What are Labour leadership contender Owen Smith's politics?". BBC News. 13 July 2016. 
  48. ^ George Eaton (9 January 2016). "Owen Smith interview: It would be "an incredible honour and privilege" to be Labour leader". New Statesman. 
  49. ^ "Labour wishes it could 'get rid of' Trident: Frontbencher regrets party's commitment to maintaining UK's nuclear deterrent". Daily Mail. 18 April 2015. 
  50. ^ Mason, Rowena (18 July 2016). "Commons votes for Trident renewal by majority of 355". The Guardian. London, UK. Retrieved 18 July 2016. 
  51. ^ Tweedie, Neil (23 Jun 2006). "No welcome in these valleys for Labour". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 19 July 2016. 
  52. ^ "The full list of how MPs voted on Libya action". BBC News. 22 March 2011. 
  53. ^ Ben Riley-Smith, Michael Wilkinson (3 December 2015). "Syria airstrikes vote: Britain to begin bombing within hours after MPs overwhelmingly back action". The Daily Telegraph. 
  54. ^ "Owen Smith: why I'll vote against air strikes". ITV News. Retrieved 17 July 2016. 
  55. ^ McSmith, Andy (18 July 2016). "Owen Smith: 'I am normal – I've got a wife and three children'". The Independent. Retrieved 22 July 2016. 
  56. ^ Criddle, Cristina (13 July 2016). "Who is Owen Smith? Meet the other Labour MP who is challenging Corbyn for the leadership". The Telegraph. Retrieved 22 July 2016. 

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Kim Howells
Member of Parliament
for Pontypridd

2010–present
Incumbent
Political offices
Preceded by
Peter Hain
Shadow Secretary of State for Wales
2012–2015
Succeeded by
Nia Griffith
Preceded by
Stephen Timms
Acting
Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
2015–2016
Succeeded by
Debbie Abrahams