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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Sticks and stones

The war of words in Blaenau Gwent has broken out again with the Independent candidate for the Parliamentary seat accusing Labour of insulting the memory of Aneurin Bevan by selecting a candidate for his old seat who works as a top lobbyist for a controversial drugs firm:

Mr Law's agent Dai Davies, who is standing as an independent with the backing of the Blaenau Gwent People's Voice group, said Pfizer's controversial international record made Mr Smith a wholly inappropriate candidate in the seat once held by the NHS founder.

Although widely known for manufacturing the sex drug Viagra, Pfizer also makes lifesaving drugs for HIV and Aids sufferers and for patients with heart diseases.

A report published by Oxfam five years ago lambasted Pfizer over its charging policies in the developing world, claiming the firm put lifesaving drugs out of reach of millions of people. The report - Formula for Fairness: patient rights before patent rights - accused the drugs giant of enforcing its patents in poor countries, driving up the cost of medicines and, unlike some of its competitors, not reducing the price of branded drugs.

Mr. Smith is on record as supporting Pfizer's policy of protecting its patents. Minutes of a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Corporate Responsibility held in February quoted him supporting earlier comments made on the same occasion by Olivier Brandicourt (OB), managing director of Pfizer UK. The minutes say, "Owen Smith... echoed OB's earlier remarks about the industry's need to protect commercially valuable intellectual property."

Labour's reaction to these accusations is predictable. They have accused Dai Davies of playing the man, not the ball. This is a tactic that they are no stranger to as is evidenced by their disgraceful attacks on the Liberal Democrat candidate, Nicola Davies in the Hodge Hill by-election and the way they also attacked Jody Dunn in Hartlepool. Labour also used the same tactic against Peter Law on a number of occasions as is evidenced on this blog. An independent observer might conclude that Labour are now getting their just deserts.
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