Just a few weeks ago the MP for Pontypridd, Owen Smith, was a complete unknown in the national consciousness. The only people who were aware of him were his constituents, fellow politicians and political reporters and commentators. However, since Britain voted to leave the European Union, politics has been moving at a rate it hasn’t been known to for decades and the politics of the Labour party, Owen Smith’s party, have been no exception to this.
Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the party was challenged by Angela Eagle in early July a couple of weeks or so after 172 of 230 or so Labour MPs passed a vote of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn as the Labour leader. Then, just two days later, on the 13th July, Owen Smith also decided to put his hat in the ring for the contest. Angela Eagle then dropped out of the race after it became clear that Owen Smith had garnered greater support of the Parliamentary Labour Party and European Parliamentary Labour Party – 72 to his 90. His support in the PLP and EPLP then rose to 172 after Eagle quit and her supporters were able to reallocate their support.
It is thought that Owen Smith, who was born in Lancashire in 1970, would be the best person to challenge Corbyn because he is considered to be from the “soft left” of the party, putting his politics very much in line with many of Corbyn’s own supporters in the party membership, giving him a decent chance of winning some of them over. Or at least a better chance of winning them over than any other anti-Corbyn Labour MP.
Despite his birthplace being in the North of England, Smith is a Welshman and proud of it. He joined the labour party at the tender age of 16 before going to the University of Sussex to study History and French. He then went on to become a radio producer for the BBC and from there became a lobbyist for the large pharmaceutical corporation, Pfizer. His previous employment with Pfizer has become a source of controversy among the pro-Corbyn members of Labour (who are thought to make up most of the party membership, making it crucial for him to win many of them over). In the early noughties he began his career in politics after being made a special advisor to the Secretary of State for Wales at the time, Paul Murphy.
He became an MP relatively recently in the British general election of 2010 – a year in which the Labour party as a whole lost heavily. This was because he was allocated a safe constituency for the party; the constituency of Pontypridd in Wales. He rose up the ranks of the opposition quickly and by 2012 was promoted by the then Labour party leader Ed Miliband to Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, meaning that he was now in the Shadow Cabinet. After Corbyn’s election as leader he was promoted again to Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in September last year. In June this year he resigned his post along with most of Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet on the basis that he did not think Corbyn was an effective leader.
Image: By Wykehamistwikipedian (OwenSmithMP.jpg) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons