The rapid rise of Owen Smith

Owen Smith
Owen Smith has been the MP for Pontypridd since 2010 Photo: ITV News Wales

Owen Smith's swift progress to Shadow Welsh Secretary after just two years as MP for Pontypridd is certainly remarkable but it could be said that he has been preparing for the job for at least 10 years. A former BBC producer, who worked on the 'Today' programme, 'Good Morning Wales' and 'Dragon's Eye', he left journalism in 2002 to embark on a political career.

He had just made it to the Wales Office as special adviser to the Welsh Secretary, Paul Murphy, when his new boss was unexpectedly reshuffled to the Northern Ireland Office. Owen Smith went to Belfast with the Secretary of State, gaining him the political credentials that were land him a job with the drugs firm Pfizer.

Owen Smith's first attempt to get to Westminster was as Labour candidate in Blaenau Gwent for the 2006 Westminster by-election. It had once been one of Labour's safest seats but the majority had evaporated when the local AM, Peter Law, broke with the party and won the parliamentary seat the year before.

Law died after just a year at Westminster and the emotion was too raw and the memories of the split over an all-women shortlist too fresh for Labour to recapture the seat. Smith lost to Law's former agent, Dai Davies, on the same day as Law's widow took the Assembly seat.

Instead Owen Smith was chosen for his home town of Pontypridd when Kim Howells stood down just months before the 2010 General Election. He had impressed the Welsh Secretary, Peter Hain, during the Blaenau Gwent campaign and within months he was Hain's deputy in opposition.

With his boss also responsible for the Labour party's internal review, it was an opportunity for Owen Smith to make his mark at Westminster. Named as the Member to Watch at the 2010 Welsh political awards, he was promoted in 2011 to the shadow Treasury team and soon became a familiar figure on television giving Labour's view of the government's economic performance.

In Welsh political circles, Owen Smith seemed the obvious choice when Peter Hain confirmed his departure from the front bench yesterday, though some at Westminster wondered if the rising star would be released from the Treasury team. When the appointment came, Owen Smith made a passing reference to his personal background as the son of the eminent Welsh historian Professor Dai Smith.

I am proud and passionate about the great history of our country, but firmly believe that our best days lie ahead. I know that Carwyn Jones believes that too, and that he and his Welsh Labour Government are working every day to deliver a brighter future for families in Wales. I want to play my part in that vital task and to help revitalise our Welsh economy and Welsh communities. When Ed Miliband appointed me he was very clear: my top priority is to work with First Minister Carwyn Jones to help bring new ideas, new jobs and opportunities to Wales. It’s the biggest challenge facing Wales today.

– Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith MP

That relationship with Carwyn Jones will be vital. Labour is the party that gave Wales devolution but it has struggled as much as any other to resolve how the relationship between Westminster and Cardiff Bay should work. Owen Smith's in-tray includes what Labour should say to the Silk Commission the Assembly's future powers and whether MPs should change the way that AMs are elected.