In Depth

Who is Owen Smith? The Welsh MP seeking Labour leadership

Former shadow work and pensions secretary positions himself as left-wing alternative to Angela Eagle

Pontypridd MP Owen Smith has announced he will stand in the Labour leadership elections, competing against Angela Eagle and the embattled current leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

The former shadow work and pensions secretary has only been in Westminster for six years and lacks Eagle's high profile. However, given her struggle to shake the legacy of the Blair years, being a relatively unknown quantity could work in his favour.

Where does he come from?

Smith was born in 1970, in Morecambe, Lancashire, to Welsh parents. He grew up in Barry, in the Vale of Glamorgan, and attended a local comprehensive before studying history and French at the University of Sussex.

After graduating, he worked in the media for ten years as a radio producer for the BBC and was responsible for programmes including Radio 4's Today show.

A member of the Labour Party from the age of 16, Smith got his first job in politics in 2002, when he was appointed as a special adviser to Paul Murphy, the then-Welsh secretary.

From 2005 to 2008, he was a lobbyist for pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer but contested his first parliamentary seat during this time, losing the 2006 Blaenau Gwent by-election to independent Dai Davies.

He eventually won a seat in 2010, taking the Pontypridd constituency for Labour, and was promoted to the shadow cabinet as shadow secretary for Wales two years later.

After he came to power, Jeremy Corbyn moved Smith to the post of shadow work and pensions secretary, where he remained until adding his name to the long list of Labour resignations last month.

Smith lives in Pontypridd with his wife, Liz, and their three children. He is a keen sports fan and regularly tweets about football, cricket and rugby.

What does he stand for?

Smith's voting record indicates he has rarely failed to follow the party line. Along with the majority of Labour MPs, he has generally voted against welfare benefit cuts, tuition fee rises and the privatisation of NHS services. He has also been a consistent supporter of equality legislation, including same-sex marriage.

"Mr Smith will position himself to Angela Eagle's left, stressing support for Mr Corbyn's anti-austerity policies, and believes this enables him to appeal to an apparently radical membership," says the BBC political correspondent, Iain Watson.

Like Eagle, however, he faces a struggle to impress party's left-wing, who will be examining Corbyn's challengers for any whiff of "New Labour".

"Those who know him say the man now pitching himself as the soft left candidate used to be 'more Blairite than Blair'," says political blog Guido Fawkes, adding that Smith's career in the media and politics might undermine his chances of connecting with Labour's disaffected heartlands. "His CV makes Andy Burnham look in touch," the site adds.

Recommended

‘Prayers for Philip’
Today's newspaper front pages
Today’s newspapers

‘Prayers for Philip’

‘There are already many caveats on our freedoms in the name of collective safety’
A vaccination centre in London
Instant Opinion

‘There are already many caveats on our freedoms in the name of collective safety’

How many people need to be vaccinated against Covid to get life back to normal?
Margaret Keenan becomes the first patient in the UK to receive the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine
In Focus

How many people need to be vaccinated against Covid to get life back to normal?

Why half of the UK’s police stations have closed in past decade
A closed police station in Hackney
In Brief

Why half of the UK’s police stations have closed in past decade

Popular articles

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 2 March 2021
10 Downing Street
Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 2 March 2021

Best TV crime dramas to watch in 2021
Line of Duty series six returns to BBC One in 2021
In Depth

Best TV crime dramas to watch in 2021

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 28 Feb 2021
10 Downing Street
Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 28 Feb 2021