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Owen Smith refuses to abolish the Work Capability Assessment leaving Disabled people terrified

Owen Smith got into politics to lobby for the international medical corporation, Pfizer. He has launched his bid to be the leader of The Labour Party, to the surprise of no one. The man is described by members of the Labour Party as “more Blairite than Blair” & it is said:  “he’s been in every single faction in the Labour Party.” 

He is happy to privatise the NHS stating “We believe that choice is a good thing and that patients and healthcare professionals should be at the heart of developing the agenda,” he said on behalf of the firm Pfizer. 

In 2006 when there was a motion in Parliament calling for Pfizer to have less of a stranglehold on the NHS, Owen Smith said: “We believe (the early day motion) to be based on inaccurate information provided by wholesalers that we have not chosen to partner with.” 

So what is this political careerist like in person? Let this comrade who has submitted this story to us, and who we stand in solidarity with, tell you. 

It is a truly appalling tale :

 ‘Owen Smith needs to be challenged robustly on his position on the Work Capability Assessment and on his commitment to disabled people’s rights. I was a Labour Party activist who had no choice but to resign from the party after a very unpleasant encounter with Mr Smith. I am recounting it now because I believe it is very important that his views are robustly challenged if he stands for the Labour leadership.On Saturday 7th March 2015 I attended a Labour meeting in Pontypridd at which the guest speaker was Owen Smith MP, then shadow secretary of state for Wales. 

When questions were invited from the floor, I asked Mr Smith why, given that the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) has been responsible for a great many more deaths than the Bedroom Tax, Labour had pledged to scrap the Bedroom Tax but had said nothing about pledging to scrap the WCA. Mr Smith replied that Labour could not pledge to scrap the WCA because this would make Labour appear weak on benefits in the eyes of the media and compromise Labour’s general election chances. I posted this on Facebook and a journalist took it up and posted the story online. Subsequently, the journalist was threatened with legal action by Mr Smith if he did not take the story down. I was very intimidated by the prospect of defending myself in court, and I had no money for a legal defence. In addition, my Labour colleagues were terribly keen to maintain good relations with Mr Smith and would probably have backed Mr Smith and not me if it came to a court case (one of them had even contacted the journalist and briefed against me). So I asked the journalist to pull the story and I deleted references to it on Facebook.

I am publicising this incident now because I am very concerned about Mr Smith’s attitude toward disabled people and particularly to his views that the deaths of disabled people are less important than Labour’s “tough on benefits” standing in the right wing press. If he threatens me with legal action again it will be incredibly stressful and will probably exacerbate my disability-related ill-health. 

But I believe it is important that Mr Smith’s attitudes to the WCA and to disability rights (and freedom of speech!) be robustly challenged if he stands for the Labour leadership. And because we should be able to discuss things that profoundly impact on us, like the WCA, without being intimidated into silence by threats of legal action. I am happy to provide more details to journalists who can contact me at lvanzyl55@gmail.com’ 

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