Today Owen Smith announced his campaign team and one of his appointments jumped out at Uncut: John Lehal who is chief of campaign operations.
John Lehal is a well respected party insider and was Andy Burnham’s campaign director last year for his leadership bid.
He is also a lobbyist. For big pharmaceutical companies and commercial providers of healthcare services.
Lehal hit the headlines last summer because of his links to firms like Pfizer (who, lest we forget, Owen Smith also worked) and Novartis as well as Look Ahead Care and Support Ltd that provides services for people with learning disabilities and mental health issues.
For Uncut, there is nothing wrong with working for the companies that are responsible for life-saving drugs and providing services upon which the NHS rely. However, if Owen Smith is under attack as a lobbyist for Big Pharma, no matter how spurious the charge, this appointment hands his opponents ammunition.
It seems his campaign understood that the appointment would likely generate some negative publicity because the press release makes clear that John Lehal will have no role in policy, stating specifically that his accountability is, “operations oversight, no policy development”.
As if that will stop Momentum and the hard left hammering Smith for it.
The question here is about Owen Smith’s political judgement. Opening himself up to further attack from the Corbynistas in this way, hardly demonstrates the sure-footed decision-making he is going to need to triumph over Jeremy Corbyn.