How will he get on against the former steel-works shop steward?
Amongst the giants in Labour’s history few can compare with Nye Bevan whose most lasting political achievement, surely, was the creation, against huge opposition, of the National Health Service in the cash-starved Britain in the aftermath of the Second World War.
He was born in Tredegar and in 1929 was elected as Labour MP for the Ebbw Vale constituency which are now part of Blaenau Gwent.
This will be the scene on Thursday of the by-elections caused by the death of Peter Laws – the independent who won the seat from Labour in 2005 after the row over the party’s all-woman short-list policy.
Labour were determined not to make a mistake this time with their candidate but I wonder whether anybody thought of the uncomfortable contrast with Nye when they chose Owen Smith as their standard bearer.
For while the candidate, in the Nye tradition, has close links with the NHS Smith’s day job is as a political lobbyist for the US pharmaceutical company that has Vigara within its product portfolio
The only opinion poll, by NOP two weeks ago, suggests that Smith will re-take the seat for Labour thus restoring the party’s majority at Westminster to what it was before they lost the Dunfermline by-election.
Carrying on the Peter Laws fight is his former agent, Dai Davies, who has a more traditional Labour background and was a shop steward at Ebbw Vale steelworks before its closure four years ago. He’s evoking the memory of the area’s greatest son in his campaign and says “Do you think that if Nye Bevan was walking down the streets of Blaenau Gwent now, he would choose New Labour as his party”.
Although the poll had Labour ahead I’ve put a few pounds on Davies holding the seat. The price is 1.2/1. The Smith odds for Labour are 0.7/1. Labour always has trouble getting its vote out and my guess is that those wanting to “give the Government a kicking” will be more motivated to vote.