It’s May 9th 2015, Ed Miliband has just resigned as Labour leader triggering a leadership election, already there is speculation as to who will be the next leader; Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Tristram Hunt, Chuka Umunna, Angela Eagle, Owen Smith are all in the frame and there are rumours that lifelong backbencher Jeremy Corbyn might throw his hat into the ring. There’s only one problem with all of that; no one was talking about Eagle or Smith as possible leadership contenders. Both were seen as relics of the old Labour age of Michael Foot whose essence can be summed up in one word; unelectable.
A leader with no followers is just a guy taking a stroll, and while Corbyn strolls around he leaves behind a government unchecked by a credible opposition. It is no wonder that there has been such a strong push from his own party to remove him; for the sake of the Labour party and the country he needs to go, and so these two would-be saviours of their party have stepped forward. But are they the saviours they proclaim themselves to be?
To many staunch Question Time fanatics like myself Angela Eagle needs no introduction, with a natural charisma akin to Ivan Lendl, and a command of oratory only rivalled by Wayne Rooney, she was undoubtedly the best leadership candidate from Yorkshire in this contest. Eagle is however a credible alternative on some policy areas to comrade Corbyn; she is actually pro-European, supports Trident renewal, and unlike Corbyn she does not oppose austerity but is just ambivalent to it; the list does goes on but not by that much. Like him however she is on the whole anti-business, and is afraid of progress in areas like education, health, and welfare reform. Her greatest similarity with her leader however is, like him, she is completely unelectable, the only way she manages to create unity is when it’s in opposition to her.
On the political sphere she is certainly more of a Blairite than she would like to admit, and her voting record is nothing to be too ashamed of. To her credit her denouncement of impudent thuggish groups like Momentum, for their activities including sending death and rape threats, shows a moral character far stronger than Corbyn. Indeed she has been a champion of LGBT+ rights, and was the first female MP to come out in office. Undeniably she would make a better leader then Corbyn but then again so would Roy Hodgson and I don’t think I would vote for him either at the next election.
Owen Smith is everything that Angela is not. He is a strong speaker, but more than that he is a genuine politician and popular with the grassroots. Elected in 2010 he served in the shadow cabinet as shadow work and pensions secretary since last September and during this time he has argued passionately against cuts to disability benefits, the failed PIP payments, and the increase in child poverty. The key word that describes him would be genuine, contrasting sharply with Angela’s disingenuous nature which has become synonymous with her every appearance.
While Eagle’s challenge was a joke to many and it is no surprise she has dropped out, Owen Smith is a serious challenger and that is what is so worrying. Smith is not a change to Corbyn, but a continuity pushing a 1970s agenda, out of touch with a changing world, disguised by his opposition to Corbyn on non-ideological issues such as Trident. Since his announcement he has talked about a desire to rewrite Clause IV, and his ambitions of renationalising the railways. He may not be as left wing ideologically as Corbyn but you get the feeling he would still deem Lenin to be too much of a Blairite.
Owen Smith is a principled politician, the policies he has proposed reflect this, and they are brave policies because they are not what the people want, and they are the wrong policies because they are not what the people want! His protestations that he is different from Corbyn is like Pepsi diet claiming it’s not Pepsi; yes he is more healthy than full on Corbyn but he will still rot away at the core of the Labour party.
Ultimately both Eagle and Smith would have been improvements on Corbyn and if Smith does win in the leadership election against him, many in the Labour party will proclaim him the saviour of the party, but this will not be the case. If Smith wins he will still protect Corbyn’s true legacy, an unelectable and antiquated Labour. Corbyn I’m sure will be proud of him.