Jeremy Corbyn has told Owen Smith he should come “fully on board” with the NHS being “totally public”, as the Labour leader’s reelection campaign targeted the former shadow work and pensions secretary’s past employment at a pharmaceutical company.
This morning Diane Abbott attacked Smith for having worked for Pfizer before entering parliament. “I don’t believe that someone whose history is having been a special adviser and a pharmaceutical company lobbyist is going to enthuse the base,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Asked whether he backed Abbott’s attack on Smith, Corbyn said private pharmaceutical companies should be “over dominant”.
“I hope Owen will fully agree with me that our NHS should be free at the point of use should be run by publicly employed workers working for the NHS not for private contractors and that medical research shouldn’t be farmed out to big pharmaceutical like Pfizer and others but should be funded through Medical Research Council as a way of developing those drugs,” he said.
Speaking at the launch of his leadership campaign, Corbyn added he hoped Smith would “come fully on board with the idea of our NHS being totally public and [with publicly employed people running it”.
Smith has insisted he has never advocated privatization of the NHS. “I believe 100% publicly owned NHS free at the point of use,” he told the BBC earlier this week.
He added it should be seen as a “massive advantage” that he had experience working in the private sector and suggested the Corbyn camp was worried about his candidacy. “I am coming under attack and I think its because people know I am connecting with Labour Party members,” he told Sky News.