Owen Smith is no ‘Blairite’. His policies are egalitarian and Left-wing

A wealth tax, ministries for labour and social security, massive infrastructure spending a more cash for the NHS


Owen Smith outlined 20 policies he would campaign on as Labour Party leader and seek to implement as Prime Minister, in a rich speech aimed at the Labour Left.

Smith has been denounced by supporters of Jeremy Corbyn as a ‘Blairite’ since he joined the Labour leadership race, with some even claiming he is ‘pro-austerity’ and wants to privatise the NHS. (It’s not clear why Corbyn would have appointed such a person as his shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.)

Today’s speech ought to put paid to this charge of Blairism, given the plainly egalitarian nature of his election programme. 

In a blistering attack on inequality in Britain, Smith said people were ‘right to be angry’ about ‘a country where people think the system is rigged against them’ – echoing the populist pitch of Bernie Sanders in the United States.

He proposed a wealth tax on the top one per cent of society – a 15 per cent tax on their unearned wealth (i.e. from assets like property) – and pledged to reverse the Tories’ millionaire tax cut and cuts to inheritance, capital gains and corporation tax, along with bringing back the 50p rate for those earning over £150,000.

This, he said, would fund a four per cent real terms increase in spending on the NHS every year in the next parliament. (Note: he wants to increase public spending on the NHS, not privatise it.)

One of his more radical proposals was to scrap the Department for Work and Pensions and replace it with a Ministry for Labour and a Department for Social Security.

He also wants to ban all zero hours contracts and replace them with minimum hours contracts, end the Tories’ freeze on public sector wages, repeal the Trade Union Act and put workers on all companies’ remuneration committees.

As a guiding principle, he wants to focus on equality of outcome, not just equality of opportunity, and repeated his pledge for a £200 billion ‘British New Deal’, a development fund to build social and economic infrastructure.

You can read the full list of today’s 20 policies below. They form an undeniably a Left wing, democratic socialist platform – and there is likely more to come.  

Put simply, this is a set of policies Corbyn supporters would have praised from the rooftops, had they been uttered by Corbyn or his team in any precise and easily digestible way, (rather than buried in a long speech of generalities and things ‘we should look at very carefully’).

Indeed, the Corbyn team did try to claim credit for some of the policies before Smith even spoke today, in particular his plan for a Ministry for Labour dedicated to quality jobs and workers’ rights.

They said shadow chancellor John McDonnell had announced this earlier in the year, but as Smith quipped in his Q&A, this was the first most people had heard of it, and this can’t be blamed solely on an anti-Labour media.

(Smith added that this policy had never been debated at any Corbyn and McDonnell-led meetings of the PLP.)

Regardless, this is a strong start for the Labour challenger, who delivered his speech well and ably handled questions from the press and public, with a number of attacks on the Tories and Jeremy Corbyn’s time in post.

He closed his speech with a direct rebuke to both Blairism and Corbynism, saying:

‘We need revolution, not evolution.

Not some misty-eyed, romantic notion of a revolution where we’re 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.’

Owen Smith’s 20 policies announced today: 

1. A pledge to focus on equality of outcome, not equality of opportunity

2. Scrapping the DWP and replacing it with a Ministry for Labour and a Department for Social Security

3. Introducing modern wages councils for hotel, shop and care workers to strengthen terms and conditions

4. Banning zero hour contracts

5. Ending the public sector pay freeze

6. Extending the right to information and consultation to cover all workplaces with more than 50 employees

7. Ensuring workers’ representation on remuneration committees

8. Repealing the Trade Union Act

9. Increase spending on the NHS by 4 per cent in real-terms in every year of the next parliament

10. Commit to bringing NHS funding up to the European average within the first term of a Labour Government.

11. Greater spending on schools and libraries.

12. Re-instate the 50p top rate of income tax.

13. Reverse the reductions in Corporation Tax due to take place over the next four years.

14. Reverse cuts to Inheritance Tax announced in the Summer Budget.

15. Reverse cuts to Capital Gains Tax announced in the Summer Budget.

16. Introduce a new wealth Tax on the top one per cent earners.

17. A British New Deal unveiling £200 billion of investment over five years.

18. A commitment to invest tens of billions in the North of England, and to bring forward High Speed 3.

19. A pledge to build 300,000 homes in every year of the next parliament – 1.5 million over five years.

20. Ending the scandal of fuel poverty by investing in efficient energy.

Adam Barnett is staff writer for Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBarnett13 

See: Why not call ‘Left-wing’ Theresa May’s bluff?

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25 Responses to “Owen Smith is no ‘Blairite’. His policies are egalitarian and Left-wing”

  1. CR

    “Pfizer” Smith is a Blairite right down to his socks. He’s another New Labour clone. I don’t believe a word he says.

  2. Sheila Franklin

    Great speech – clear, comprehensive and passionate. Very impressed!

  3. David Davies

    I take it that this organisation will now change its name to RIGHT Foot Forward into Mouth?

    Owen Smith is the epitome of Blue Labour, and its architect The War Monger – look like a tory, talk like a tory, walk like a tory… ostensibly to kid the electorate. Then, prove that you are a tory.

    Fortunately, Owen Smith has a track record which shows exactly where his true loyalties lie.

  4. Happy Warrior

    I’ve never understood the whole lobbyist Pfizer blah is evil nonsense.

    Firstly, MPs (all of them) deal with Lobbyists everyday. Indeed I have been to see Corbyn twice in the last Parliament. He didn’t seem to hate me then.

    Secondly, there’s a massive difference between working for your employer and believing every single thing they say. Most Labour voters in Roche pharma will be thinking that their party doesn’t want their vote.

    Thirdly, Corbyn, Abbott and McDonnell have never worked outside of politics in London. So who exactly are the out of touch liberal metropolitans?

    FYI people – more than 80% of the UK’s workforce is in the private sector. Including the fine people at the LFF blog, most of your readers and as previously stated more than 80% of the UK’s workforce.

    If you want to win over people you shouldn’t tell them that what they do for a living is evil.

  5. Happy Warrior

    If people really believe that Owen Smith is a Red Tory or whatever…then honestly, we are through the looking glass and people espousing that do simply not understand politics.

    I’d ask those people to identify who the ‘real’ socialists are in the PLP?

  6. Frann Leach

    How very easy to just cut and paste Corbyn’s policies and claim for yourself. If elected, he’ll go back to his track record, promoting the 1%, privatising those parts of the NHS that can be profitable, and so on. He’s as left wing as my late aunt’s right arm – a lifelong Tory member.

  7. Dr Gary Burn

    It’s amazing, these Labour MPs like Smith and Eagle keep on repeating their mantra that it’s not Corbyn’s policies they oppose but his lack of leadership. Just think about it, Miliband was leader for 5 years and wouldn’t say boo to a goose. He was such a useless leader he couldn’t or wouldn’t even oppose the Tory lie that it was all Labour’s fault never mind their great austerity hoax, but they didn’t try to replace him did they? So.. we know it’s all about policies. These Red Tories should quit the Labour Party and join the Conservatives…. their true home.

    As George W Bush once said, paraphrasing Abe Lincoln: “You can fool some of the people all of the time…and those are the people we should concentrate on.” Luckily, this time, it’s not the Labour Party members… we’ve been conned once two often.

  8. Martyn Wood-Bevan

    He has just lifted these policies from a speech Jeremy gave in May, but which the MSM “failed” to cover.
    Have a look – //voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/27/20-policy-proposals-from-owen-smith-but-how-many-are-his-own/

  9. Alan

    labour party members have been totally disenfranchised. Dirty deeds like this will not be forgotten. we have to take back the reigns from those that have done this if democracy means a damn. Smith has put forward a policy statement pinched from Corbyn and Donnel to try and assuage the huge ranks of Corbynites. the membership don’t trust any candidate other than Corbyn full stop.

  10. Steve Mizzy

    So Jeremy gave a speech in May setting out exactly (???) the same policy proposals and no one noticed? These are a comprehensive set of policies so if Corbyn had put out something similar, its a bit surprising that he didn’t make more of an effort to get them heard.
    Nothing on tv or radio, how about a newspaper article, or maybe mention something in Parliament? I’m a party member and I didn’t get anything and I get loads of stuff from Jeremy.
    And after today, following on from his impressive leadership launch, surely no one with an open mind can be in any doubt that Smith is not remotely a Blairite.
    Give the man a fair hearing.

  11. Jon Davidson

    All these policies were espoused by Jeremy Corbyn since he was elected Leader. You only have to scratch the surface of Mr. Smith to know he’s a chameleon…

  12. Michael WALKER

    Does not matter whether he copied teh speech from Corbyn or the Kama Sutra (unlikely I know).

    A snowball’s chance in hell of any politician with those aims being elected – in the current environment. Labour are trailing polls in economic competence. Mr Smith just reinforces the image of a tax and spend idiots with a magic money tree.

  13. Cole

    Seems that Corbynites are out again slagging off and insulting opponents of JC, calling them ‘Blairites’ or Tories’. I guess they just can’t help themselves.

    Very unpleasant people.

  14. Suzanne Stephenson

    Steve Mizzy might want to read:
    //www.lse.ac.uk/[email protected]/research/Mainstream-Media-Representations-of-Jeremy-Corbyn.aspx
    Could explain a few things.

  15. Rab McNair

    So Owen claims that he would have voted against the Iraq war. However, if you check his voting record in the Commons you will see that he voted for bombing ISIL in Iraq and also for bombing Libya. On top of this he just voted to renew trident. Not exactly the record of someone against wars.

  16. John Woods

    Alan Johnson wants the bedroom tax repealed immediately. How did Owen miss out on that promise. Could I add an urgent policy. We need some form of proportionality in the General Elections and there is enough thought gone into this subject to put into a White Paper and pass in time for the 2025 GE.

  17. David Lindsay

    If you want to hide all manner of corruption and vileness in the plainest of sight, then position yourself on the right wing of a left-wing party. The Right’s media juggernaut is aimed squarely at the Left, while the Left’s inexhaustible energy and commitment, no matter how lacking in resources, are aimed squarely at the Right. In between the two, you can get away with anything.

    Look, if you can bear to do so, at the Clintons. Or look, if you can bear to do so, at Owen Smith. Smith faked his CV. He buys up fake accounts to cheerlead for him Twitter. He professes himself “normal” because he has a wife and children, unlike Angela Eagle (although she, in her way, is another one). He prolonged people’s cancer in order to maximise corporate profits. And he wants to “smash Theresa May back on her heels”.

    Today, he has been to Orgreave, in an attempt to hijack the memory of the Miners’ Strike. There, he announced no fewer than 20 of Jeremy Corbyn’s and John McDonnell’s policies as his own. Don’t believe a word of it. The MPs who have nominated would not have done so if those were his views. Nor would he be receiving the media support that he is. Nor would he enjoy the backing of the most right-wing seven per cent of Labour councillors.

  18. Eric

    [Indeed, the Corbyn team did try to claim credit for some of the policies before Smith even spoke today, in particular his plan for a Ministry for Labour dedicated to quality jobs and workers’ rights.]

    Actually its the other way round. Smith declared that John McDonnell lacked ideas and that for example he had not been pushing the Ministry for Labour idea. So its Smith attacking McDonnell not the otherway round and Smith brazenly steeling the ideas while lyingly attacking McDonnell for never having them in the first place.

    From the Guardian live blog

    Not once. Not once in the last nine months in which I’ve served in the shadow cabinet have I heard a single debate being led by John McDonnell about a minister for labour. Not once have I heard a single debate led by John McDonnell about rights at work … It has been devoid of ideas quite often. Now, there are lots of reasons for that. But I tell you straight; it’s about time Labour pulled its socks up.

    Employment rights have been front and centre for John McDonnell in the past 10 months as Shadow Chancellor and throughout his campaigning life. He launched the Institute of Employment Rights “Manifesto for Labour Law” on 28 June, which included a policy to reinstate the ministry of labour. Jeremy Corbyn has also proposed reinstating the Ministry of Labour, notably during last year’s leadership campaign.


  19. Fred

    21. Mass immigration from the Middle East. It’s been such a success story in Germany.

  20. Robert Jones

    This is just a waste of time and energy. If Smith isn’t a Blairite, and frankly I need more than your and his assurance that this is the case, given he’s arisen from exactly nowhere, he will have plenty of time to prove it. As yet, he hasn’t done so. He may well be a credible candidate in the future. As of now, he just isn’t. He appears to be as much a tool of the Anyone-but-Corbyn Brigade as was the hapless and hopeless Angela Eagle, and there really is nothing at this point which will even begin to suggest otherwise.

    I do not want a cipher leading my party. We had that with Ed Miliband, who did as well as a nice suit and toothy smile could achieve, but it just wasn’t enough. The addition of a credible Welsh accent isn’t, to be brutally honest, quite enough either.

  21. Polly

    Smith is a man who will say anything. It is easy to say things. But his past record gives the lie to his words. Only 7% of communication is verbal. In Smith’s case, I respectfully submit that he simply cannot be trusted with his words.

    There are other examples, but this is my favourite, because it is on a crucial issue…this is no slip of the tongue.


  22. Bill Wells

    Owen Smith, who I have met, is a careerist opportunist who waited for the hapless Angela Eagle to start the ball rolling by sticking the knife into the man who promoted her to number three and then he put his head above the parapet. He then smoothly cuts and pastes most of Corbyn’s policies and says trust me to deliver forgetting that his whole life story suggests he twists and turns whichever way the political wind is blowing. He joined CND when it suited and now would hit the red button, as my old Mum would say he “has the gift of the gab and will say anything to get what he wants”. Now watch him become the pin up poster politician of the media particularly the BBC. Don’t trust him stick with JC.

  23. Boffy

    Judge by actions not empty words. Where was all this “Bevanite” left-wing politics in the past, when he was failing to oppose Tory austerity, or the Welfare Bill? Where was he when workers were on strike opposing Tory pay cuts, pension cuts, and low pay, and when Jeremy Corbyn was standing on picket lines with those workers?

    He says that Jeremy has only made vague policy proposals and that he had seen no attempt to develop policies to deal with austerity, bring growth, reduce inequality and so on. In that case where has he been? Has he not been to any of the numerous economic policy debates around the country that McDonnell organised with people like Paul Mason and so on speaking, has he no heard about the formation of the panel of economic experts including Nobel Prize Winners like Stiglitz to help develop economic policy.

    Either he has been extremely remiss, or else he actually did know about all of this long-term, detailed policy formation that was taking place and he is being less than honest!

    In actual fact, a lot of the things he is proposing are less radical than what Jeremy has proposed, and less practical and effective too. The introduction of Wages Councils is typically bureaucratic and managerial. It is far more effective to simply introduce a Minimum Weekly wage of £400 a week, and to make it a criminal offence for employers not to pay it. Then encourage Trades Unions to monitor it and shop employers that are in breach.

    Far better to empower workers and their unions so as to be able to negotiate higher wages on top of this minimum. In respect of the Wealth Tax, it appears to be on high earners. But a Wealth tax should be a tax on wealth not earnings! It misses the real wealthy, the ones who own the majority of paper money wealth in the form of shares, and bonds, or landed property. It would be better to put a tax on such paper wealth.

    But no one is dealing with the real issue, required to transform the distribution of wealth and income which is the question of ownership and control of the means of production. We should legislate to prevent shareholders appointing the members of company boards, and have those boards elected from the firm’s workers and managers, as is done in part in Germany. Workers have huge amounts of paper wealth in pension funds, but have no control over it. We should legislate to provide workers with democratic control via their unions over the money in their pension schemes, and that should include the state pension fund, and national insurance fund.

  24. Alex Wilson

    You’d have to be a complete moron to believe that Smith will deliver, while Corbyn won’t. Smith is a neo-liberal.

  25. Paul Watson

    It is clear to me that JC’s view is that the role of Labour MP’s is to represent the views, beliefs and aspirations of their constituencies whereas many of the coup MP’s seem to think it is the role of the constituency members to represent the views, beliefs and aspirations of their MP’s. Does anybody know OS view on this ?

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