LABOUR Party members in Gospel Oak are today receiving a personal message urging them to vote for Owen Smith from one of their ward councillors. Theo Blackwell, the council’s finance chief, has railed against what he sees as a Jeremy Corbyn cult in recent weeks, so perhaps the content is of little surprise. He’s been around too long to worry about those words in the wind about deselection for local politicians who refuse to stand behind the Labour leader.
Both CLPs in Camden have nominated Corbyn to stay as leader, but Smith supporters believe they have charted some degree of wavering among those upset by the Brexit vote in June. Nearly 200 people voting for Smith at this month’s nomination meeting at St Pancras Church was not seen as a disaster, for example, and there is a belief that some minds are still yet to be made up.
“Jeremy’s changed changed the discourse, now we need someone to deliver a distinctive left wing agenda whilst carrying the party and the PLP together,” Theo writes. “Owen Smith will bring the passion people have for Labour politics into action: building an effective team across the country to speak for our values. He gives us the best chance to rebuild and the best chance to make a difference, which is what our Party was created to do in the first place.”
You don’t even have to call the other side to know they will treat all of this as the views of somebody who vouched for last-placed Liz Kendall in last summer’s leadership contest, a position which has been cast this time around as being out of step with the wider membership. His letter, however, follows similar pleas to members from Keir Starmer, Frank Dobson, Sarah Hayward and others to side with their challenger.,
Theo adds: “Many of the demands for greater debate and say in democracy are well made and part of our great Labour traditions. But we need practical policies to extend democracy to the people — like proportional representation, House of Lords reform, proper decentralisation of power to regions and cities- and little has advanced since the last leadership election. I do hope whoever the victor is in this two horse race — it will be close — will recognise the need to draw into the fold those that felt they couldn’t support the winning candidate.”