Watch Owen Smith’s barnstorming speech about inequality and his ‘British New Deal’

Labour leader candidate is running as a Left populist - with lots of policy to chew on


Owen Smith MP gave a rousing speech yesterday about the blight of inequality as he launched his bid to lead the Labour Party.

Smith gave us lots of policy to chew on, most notably his ‘British New Deal’ – a £200 billion development fund ‘to rebuild physical and social infrastructure’.

Laying out what this means, Smith said:

‘I want new hospitals, I want better roads, I want us to restore Sure Start centres, I want us to make sure we’ve got the rail infrastructure we need, I want us to be certain that every child has a chance to go to college or take an apprenticeship.’

The former shadow Work and Pensions Secretary is clearly running as a Left populist in the style of Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren in the United States. (The idea of a New Deal is itself borrowed from President Roosevelt’s depression-era radicalism.) At one point Smith remarked:

‘We’ve been keeping the banks afloat in this country. It is time we start keeping the people afloat in this country.’

This is manifest in his other policies, such as re-writing Clause IV of Labour’s constitution ‘to put tackling inequality right at the heart of everything we do’.

Smith said:

‘We have a wider gap between the haves and have-nots in this country than any of us have known in our lifetimes. And it is for the Labour Party, our party, to fight to reduce that gap. […]

‘Every Labour policy has to be tested against that benchmark. Is it going to reduce inequalities in wealth, in power, in outcomes and opportunities, or is it not?’

He also trashed Theresa May’s decision to scrap the Department for Energy and Climate Change, and promised to instantly restore the DECC, and make ‘every single department across government’ work towards a ‘low-carbon future’.

On foreign policy, Smith proposed a ‘war powers act’ as a check against the mistakes of the Iraq War, as laid bare in the Chilcot report, with greater oversight by parliament.

(Smith was not an MP in 2003, but says he opposed the Iraq War at the time. He has voted for military action since, in Libya, Iraq and Syria.)

On a more general level, Smith praised current leader Jeremy Corbyn for putting opposition to austerity (cuts to public services) on the table, but said Labour must go further: 

‘It’s not enough to just be anti-austerity. You’ve got to be pro- something. And I am very clear. I am pro-prosperity. I am pro- standing up for working people.’

Billing himself as a ‘radical and credible’ candidate, Smith has also hinted at more radical proposals. When asked after his speech about rail nationalisation, he replied:

And in an interview with Andrew Marr yesterday, in response to the ultimate ‘gotcha’ question for a Lefty – would you raise taxes on the rich? – he said:

‘Yes. One of the things we’ve been far too timid about in the Labour Party for a long time is out taxation system. It isn’t progressive. […]

Certainly I’d go back to a 50p rate tomorrow [for top earners], because I think that is absolutely the right thing to do.

But there are other elements of taxation – why on earth are capital gains being taxed at 20 per cent, when the highest rates of income tax are at 45 per cent?’

In the same interview, Smith hedged his bets on Brexit, keeping open the possibility of campaigning against enacting Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which would effectively block Britain from leaving the EU.

He also said he favoured replacing Trident as part of a multilateral effort for global disarmament, (rather than the CND’s unilateralist position, which he doesn’t think will work), adding, when asked, that a PM must be willing to use nuclear weapons as a last resort to have a serious deterrent. 

At his launch event, Smith also spoke against any split in the Labour Party, saying:

‘If I’ve got anything to do about it, never on my watch will this party split. […]

Working people in this country cannot afford it to split. We’re the people’s party, never forget it. We are the people’s party.’

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

See: Owen Smith, Angela Eagle and Jeremy Corbyn – what’s the difference?

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20 Responses to “Watch Owen Smith’s barnstorming speech about inequality and his ‘British New Deal’”

  1. MarcD

    Nice try, but this is a Pfizer lobbyist embedded in Progress who wants to privatise the NHS for his paymasters. Believe me NO-ONE is fooled.

  2. Paul watson

    “Never on my watch will this party split……..” Well what are you doing to fulfil this ? Oh only all he can to split the party

  3. Just Cann

    Owen Smith and Angela Eagle have turned on each other about wanting to be labour leader. The division is proof, that the question was never about Corbyns leadership qualities but rather a hunger for power by them and others in the labour party.

    Owen Smith has not spoken against Labour NEC decision to increase from £3 to £25 fee to be paid by people wanting to register to vote in labour leadership election. How does this near 10 fold increase in cost help the low paid to register to vote. Owen Smith has failed his first test on equality.

    Oven Smith did not vote against the Tories Welfare Bill. That was designed to hurt poor people.

    Owen Smith can’t be trusted by labour party members. He resigned from shadow cabinet in a way to cause maximum damage to the labour party by taking part in a drip, drip resignations on the hour every hour that were designed to damage the labour party.

    Owen Smith took part in no confidence vote to damage labour party leader. When Owen Smith voted no confidence in labour party leader Jeremy corby he voted no confidence in majority of labour party members, 60% who voted for Corbyn.

    Owen Smith has not condemned the labour MPs who have repeatedly bullied and harassed the elected leader of the labour party.

  4. Steve Mizzy

    Impressive stuff from Smith who looks and sounds the part. He put out more ideas, sounded genuinely more progressive, more inclusive and credible in his launch than the current leader has managed since he’s been in post.
    He needs to follow it up, but he seems to me to be a very viable alternative to a leader who has shown a disturbing inability to carry out the basic requirements of the role.

  5. James Kemp

    Steve don’t buy the speech writers words look at the man’s voting record. His comments on PFI deals and his close role with drug companies and you will see a bought and paid for politician, not the man of the people rubbish he is spouting. He is yet another Blairite in sheep’s clothing going back to tory lite this is not a labour man! He comments yesterday tell you all he is in favour of austerity…

  6. Tony

    Compare and contrast:

    “Smith was not an MP in 2003, but says he opposed the Iraq War at the time”

    Owen Smith 2006:

    The Iraq War:

    “We are making significant inroads in improving what is happening in Iraq. 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, and one that in South Wales, from the Spanish Civil War onwards, we have recognised and played a part in.”

    The real Owen Smith:

    “He has voted for military action since, in Libya, Iraq and Syria.”

  7. John Davies

    Please do not be fooled by yet another disingenuous member of the Progess group. Look at his voting record. These people, smith/eagle et al are vacuous opportunists. They will not unite our party they will kill it!

  8. dewi jones

    Labour Party members in South Wales have nothing but respect for Owen Smith. He’s hard working, intelligent, clever, articulate and with the ability to perform well on television and radio. He has the personal qualities that Corbyn clearly lacks. Let the PLP compare Owen with Angela and come to a view over who should progress as a “unity candidate” to stand against Corbyn. Either would be preferable to the current shambles at the top of the Party.

  9. ted francis

    Impressive. Who wrote his speech, Dr Goebbels, one of the greatest spinners in history.

  10. Steve Mizzy

    Its my party too, having joined after voting for Corbyn and welcoming his election.
    To characterise Smith as some sort of right wing/Blairte/Progress patsy is incredibly feeble. Anyone taking a serious look at his leadership launch speech and listening to what he has said over the last couple of weeks really must surely conclude that he is a credible left of centre option.
    Lets be practical here. Corbyn has demonstrated his unsuitability for the role since he took office. its obvious that he cannot manage the PLP, and therefore cannot form an effective opposition. This is major and I’d say fundamental failing. He really is quite incompetent here and in a number of other vitally important areas.
    So, do we stick with the guy who has principle aplenty but little else, or do we go with the younger, more articulate guy who may not have a blemish free track record, but is at least likely to do the things required of a party leader?

  11. Eric

    Like you Steve I’m left unimpressed by the vague slanders which precede your posts. In my experience when these sorts of claims are investigated they are invariably spurious.

    I am left utterly baffled by the personality cult that surrounds Jeremy. Why the infatuation with a man who has “lost the dressing room” and has failed to impress at evpossible opportunity, who is so poor a leader he can’t hold his party together. If the consensus in the party is to move left then fine I am cautiously pleased by that and I am sure many of the MPs who voted against him are as well, but if that’s where we’re going we need to be led by someone who will not only take the party with him but more of the electorate than voted Labour in the last election.

  12. Geordie

    @Steve Mizzy – it’s a bit of a no-brainer, isn’t it ? We stick with the guy who has principle aplenty.

    God knows, there’s few enough of them in politics, while you can’t throw a brick without hitting several articulate, sharp-suited, well-groomed and ultimately untrustworthy “real” politicians.

    Corbyn has done alright – for a start he brought me back to the Labour party, something I never thought would happen after Iraq. But think how much better he’d have been doing if (most of) the rest of the party had resisted the temptation to act like a bunch of spoiled kids and started doing what they were supposed to be elected to do.

  13. Eric

    Here are a few links on Owen which give some background.

    Another thought about Jeremy and Owen. Jeremy made him shadow secretary of work and pensions. Now, does Jeremy have appalling judgement, thus further confirming his unsuitability for leading the Labour party or are many of the preceding posts just a load of rubbish?

  14. Martyn Wood-Bevan

    Corbyn was so well liked because he was such a change from the typical suited politician who was so fearful of the electorate that they would put forward very safe policies that the thought the population would like. He had genuine convictions, stood for something and challenged the establishment, which very many people responded to. Many in his party prejudged him as an out of touch leftie who would not command the public respect and then went out of their way to prove this to be true – as is the case with self-fulfilling prophecies – and engaged the MSM in this task and preventing many of his ideas from seeing the light of day.
    Owen Smith (I am Welsh and can speak with some authority) is a non-entity in Wales, was flown into a safe Labour seat and is on the right wing of the party. He is quite slick but has been known as “Oily” Smith because he can say just what people want to hear, whether or not he particularly believes it. His presentation is fairly good but he is hardly talking to a vast crowd, unlike Jeremy Corbyn who always commands much bigger audiences – like the 150,000+ at Durham last week. Corbyn simply needs a more effective management team to help organise his activity programme.

  15. Linzi

    I have for many years been one of those people who complain about politics. I found that the more I research the more I found the parties to the same, ok they talk about good game but words are cheap it’s action we want. And out of all of them one person as been consistent. It’s ok them telling you what they going to do, but look at what they been doing. I am going to vote Corbyn, he has awaken my interest, he may be different compared to the other leaders (or pretenders), but let’s face it that is what we need, no more of the charismatic, double dealing politicians who make up a good line but has no depth. This is the time to really consider what type of world we want to live in, and what type of leader we want, honesty, peace and a strength that is bone deep. And lets face it, he had to have a type of strength to with stand a coup, a new leadership challenge, and a media that as been extremely negative. Let’s show the politicians that we are the one who choose and pay them, they work for us the people, and it’s time to listen to us.

  16. wg

    I had an Asian sounding guy on the phone the other day – told me he was from BT and was worried about other people using my broadband.
    He told me that he could sort it out for £3 if I typed in my bank details.

    That’s Owen Smith – no different from the rest.

  17. sosr

    The information given regarding military action overseas is incorrect. He voted for airstrikes in Iraq to support Iraqi forces fighting IS, but he voted against UK military action in Syria. He supported the establishment of a no-fly zone in Libya, that was not a vote on bombing fighters of either side.

  18. sosr

    I don’t think he is a member of Progress. Jeremy Corbyn spoke at Progress’s conference this May though. Perhaps he is a right-winger.

  19. Jumbo01

    I agree with the comments of Just Cann above. Also I feel that Mr Owen Smith should be pushed harder to give specific details of just what he intentions are for Clause IV of the Labour Party Constitution. This will give a true indication of his political stance. He talked about infrastructure but this refers only to roads. he needs to outline whether or not he will support Clause IV (original and not as that amended under Blair). Clause IV outlines an agenda to take public ownership of all things infrastructure like railways and utilities. Its not just simply about some re-investment plans its about generating social capital across the board and for the people and the Nation.We need to know exactly what Mr Smith would re-write as Clause IV. Force him to come clean before expecting any left wing support.

    In relation to the leadership vote it should be either postponed or, vetoed until this disgracefully undemocratic decision by the Labour NEC has been over-turned. As Just Cann mentioned how can it be fair when new members have to find that kind of money. We are all members who deserve to be treated equally. If you believe in this even those of you who can vote without restrictions please visit my petition complaining of the un-justness of this ruling.

  20. Nick

    It’s not a bad speech overall a lot better then Donald trumps. having said that for me Owen is very much new to being an mp he overall has not got the experiences of jo cox for example who would have been ideal as at least she had views that made some conservative mp’s sit up and take note

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