Western Mail

Former MP’s new job with big pharma

- MARTIN SHIPTON Chief reporter martin.shipton@walesonlin­e.co.uk

THE former Welsh politician who challenged Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership of the Labour Party has become the top UK lobbyist for an American pharmaceut­ical company.

Owen Smith has become UK Government relations director for Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS), one of the world’s biggest medical drugs companies.

He did not stand for re-election as the MP for Pontypridd in last December’s General Election after nine years at Westminste­r.

The son of historian Dai Smith, he went to school in Barry.

After studying History and French at Sussex University, he worked for the BBC as a reporter and producer, including stints on the Radio Four Today programme and BBC Wales’ political show Dragon’s Eye.

A member of the Labour Party from the age of 16, he later became a special adviser to former Torfaen MP Paul Murphy when he was the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

In the early 2000s, Mr Smith went to work as a lobbyist for the American pharmaceut­ical giant Pfizer.

In 2006 he stood unsuccessf­ully as Labour’s by-election candidate in Blaenau Gwent, following the death of Peter Law, who had won the seat as an Independen­t in the previous year’s General Election, having been prevented from putting his name forward for the party nomination because of the imposition of an all-women candidates’ shortlist.

In 2010 Mr Smith succeeded Kim Howells as the MP for Pontypridd, later that year becoming a Shadow Wales Office Minister.

When Peter Hain stepped down from the front bench in 2012, Mr Smith succeeded him as Shadow Secretary of State for Wales in Ed Miliband’s Shadow Cabinet.

After the 2015 General Election, Mr Miliband resigned as Labour’s leader and was succeeded by Jeremy Corbyn. Mr Smith was appointed as the Shadow Secretary of State of Work and Pensions.

A year later, following mass resignatio­ns from the Shadow Cabinet, Mr Smith mounted a challenge to Mr Corbyn’s leadership of the party.

But despite much disenchant­ment with Mr Corbyn among MPs, Mr Smith secured only 38.2% of the vote against 61.8% for Mr Corbyn, who was more popular with grassroots members and the trades unions.

After the 2017 General Election Mr Smith was appointed Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, but was later sacked after arguing in favour of the UK staying in the single market and for a further referendum on EU membership.

Mr Smith confirmed his new job with BMS, but said he had no time to discuss the matter further.

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