UK Politics

Labour leadership: Owen Smith attempts to woo Jeremy Corbyn backers

An audience member films Owen Smith's speech Image copyright PA

This was a pitch from Owen Smith groaning with new policy ideas, delivered in a spot groaning with symbolism - on an industrial estate near Orgreave, just outside Sheffield, the site of the battles between the police and miners in 1984.

It is now home to giants of modern industry such as Rolls Royce and Boeing - and so both a nod to Labour's past and its hopes for the future.

Mr Smith set out what he repeatedly described as a "radical" policy agenda. An agenda necessary, he believed, because of his bleak diagnosis of contemporary Britain: a country he saw as "frustrated, divided, increasingly intolerant and angry".

So what were his cures for these ills?

Mr Smith said he wanted to lead a government that would end the public sector pay freeze, reinstate the 50p income tax rate for those earning more than £150,000 per year, and increase the budget for the NHS in England by an additional 4% every year.

He said he would pay for this by asking the very richest to pay a wealth tax on the money earned on their investments.

'Misty eyed socialism'

It was, in short, a suite of left wing policies aimed directly at those Labour members and supporters who were wooed by Jeremy Corbyn a year ago, but who Mr Smith now hopes to convert to his cause.

The big question for him is whether there are enough of them.

He argued that he was the competent socialist with an appetite to govern, in contrast to what he saw as the unelectable "misty eyed" socialism of his rival Mr Corbyn.

Image caption Ex miner John Dunn said Owen Smith - pictured together above - was "shamelessly exploiting" the events at Orgreave

The challenge Mr Smith faces was neatly illustrated twice today: the small room he hired filled with about 100 supporters, in contrast to the throngs of the devoted who cram into packed auditoriums to hear Mr Corbyn.

And, as he left, he was confronted by an angry voice from Labour's left, proudly wearing a t-shirt demanding justice for the miners caught up in the dispute with police here more than 30 years ago.

John Dunn, a Labour Party member for 45 years and ex miner, said Owen Smith was "shamelessly exploiting" what had happened at Orgreave for his own political ends.

The two men spoke for a few minutes, before Mr Smith was bundled into the back of a car and driven away, his encounter now over with the very personification of the challenge he faces this summer.

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