UK Politics

Labour leadership: Owen Smith wants 'new industrial revolution'

Owen Smith

Labour leadership hopeful Owen Smith has called for a "new industrial revolution", warning the UK is "on the edge of another recession".

In a speech, he called for a focus on "jobs of the future" in areas such as the car industry and green energy.

He is challenging Jeremy Corbyn, who has called for "radical solutions" such as "injecting £500bn into our economy".

Mr Smith hit out at his rival, saying he was "useless" as leader and had "fractured" the Labour movement.

Mr Corbyn, who is holding a campaign rally in Bristol later, has said he would invest in infrastructure, manufacturing and new industries backed by a publicly-owned National Investment Bank and regional banks.

The Labour leader has also pledged to bring in stronger employment rights, including an end to "exploitative zero hours contracts" and mandatory collective bargaining on pay rates for companies with 250 or more employees if he becomes prime minister.

He has also said he would end the public sector pay cap by bringing back the 50p top rate of income tax and a 1% increase in corporation tax.

Meanwhile, five new Labour Party members have won a High Court battle to vote in the leadership contest after a court ruled against the party's decision not to allow anyone who joined after 12 January to take part. Labour is expected to appeal the ruling.

No 'blank cheque'

Speaking at a tech start-up centre in Newcastle, Owen Smith said he wanted to "rebalance the economy" saying successive governments had allowed the economy to be "too reliant" on financial services and "insecure, low-skilled and low-paid jobs".

"I want to make Britain the workshop of the world once more," he said, as he called for "a new industrial revolution to secure the jobs of the future".

He said this would mean supporting "existing industries such as the automotive industry" but also investing in new industries including digital and tech start-ups, creative industries and renewable energy.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Labour members will chose between Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith

Mr Smith said the Bank of England's decisions to cut interest rates to a record low and expand quantitative easing show the economy is "standing on the edge of another recession", with "ordinary working people" set to pay the price.

The Pontypridd MP said ministers must not be given a "blank cheque" on Brexit, and he also underlined his demand for a second referendum to allow voters to sign off the terms of a deal on leaving the EU.

'Useless'

He did not hold back on his criticism of Mr Corbyn, either, saying that the leader "didn't deliver" on promises made.

"Great at slogans, useless at solutions. Great at talking about forging a united Labour movement but he has done the opposite. He's fractured it," he said.

He said he might be tempted to call a snap election if he was in Prime Minister Theresa May's position: "If I were her, I might well do."

Meanwhile, answering readers' questions in the Sunday Mirror, Mr Corbyn said Labour must offer "radical solutions to problems" to win elections.

"That means we must prioritise the NHS to eliminate its deficit, we must make trains work for passengers and not shareholders, and we must address chronic under-investment by injecting £500bn into our economy through regional investment banks," he said.

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