Is it not better for a country to have two clearly distinct political parties, or is better for one party to attempt to resemble the other in a bid to get elected? Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith are the physical manifestations of these two ideas, with the former having vigorously opposed the Conservative Party for the past 30 years. While the same can be said of Smith to a lesser degree, in all likelihood a victory by him would open the door for a possible resurgence of New (or should I now say old?) Labour.
Owen Smith is a man who has found himself having to move consistently leftwards to appease Labour voters. His clear opposition to zero-hour contracts, commitment to raising the top rate of tax again, and increased investment was in stark contrast to positions candidates took in the leadership election just one year ago. Liz Kendall appeared sympathetic towards austerity. Smith’s claim that he could lead a ‘radical but credible opposition’ simply doesn’t feel authentic when compared to Corbyn’s ‘straight talking, honest politics’. It is this feeling of Smith being a watered down version of Corbyn, as well as recent electoral performances, which makes me think that Smith will lose to Corbyn in this upcoming leadership election
If he finds himself in this position, what makes him think people won’t want to just vote for Corbyn himself? This is a man who was elected with an overwhelming mandate and has consistently opposed austerity, foreign intervention and supported renationalisation of the railways. Conversely, Smith has previously been sympathetic to private influence in the NHS, has expressed support for Trident and voted for strikes in Libya. If the Labour party wants to revisit it’s more recent methods it is likely to face the same result it has the past two times: defeat. While Corbyn might not be an immediate antidote to the crisis which Labour faces, he offers an alternative path which, in time, may yield dividends.
Not too long ago there was another candidate who attempted (in vain) to unify the party by associating with the ‘soft left’. His name was Ed Miliband. Isn’t it a symptom of insanity to try the same thing again and expect different results? I can understand that a week, let alone a month is a long time in politics but for a party membership continually veers left, does Owen Smith sincerely feel he can win the leadership election, and then a general election?
You can critique Corbyn all you like, but even during the reign of Blair was there ever such a huge influx of members joining the Labour party. In fact, like the Conservatives, Labour saw its membership decline steadily until recently. Thanks to well-mobilised support groups such as Momentum that support Corbyn, the core support base of the Labour party now finds itself largely in favour in Corbyn, as evidenced by recent YouGov polling. Smith’s attack on Corbyn for increased abuse towards female MPs is likely to incense many in the party. In fact, I feel that the gulf between considerable numbers of Smith and Corbyn supporters makes the prospect of a split, which Smith has warned about, very real.
I can understand that many people are frantically searching for a way to make the Labour party appear presentable and re-emerge as a credible opposition. Many of these people will resign themselves to the belief that Jeremy Corbyn cannot be a leader and that someone else must inevitably take the reins. But can that man be Owen Smith? I’m not so sure.