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Labour Leadership Election: The Choice Is Corbyn Or No-one

25/08/2016 16:05 | Updated 25 August 2016

The voting period for the Labour Leadership election has now officially opened. Hundreds of thousands of Labour supporters will be able to vote for their candidate of choice. Unfortunately the choice between Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith is a false one.

Owen Smith does not represent a viable candidate for either the Labour party or the public.

On the contrary, he represents a form of top-down politics, a contempt for the grassroots and a profound opposition to the democratic processes that elect the Leader of the Labour party. A form of politics that has lost its appeal.

It is an old adage that voters do not vote for a divided party. Smith is the figurehead of an ill-conceived leadership challenge that has deeply divided and wounded gravely the Labour party and its election chances. For this simple fact alone, Smith is not a viable leader let alone a leadership option.

Following Brexit, in the most turbulent period following the 2008 global financial meltdown, Labour had its chance to stand above the Conservative in-fighting and clearly articulate to the country its vision for the future; and that Brexit was the result of Conservative internal mis-management. This was the time for Labour to stand up and be counted and for Jeremy Corbyn to show whether he is the leader with the vision, tenacity and strength of character to be relied on and stir the country forward.

This never happened as Labour MPs, shocked by Brexit, decided it was Jeremy's fault and not the Conservatives' who brought Brexit upon themselves and dragged the country down a UKIP-inspired vision of the future. Some would argue that Corbyn is not the man to lead the country forward post Brexit. Due to their actions though, we will never know whether this is the case. Corbyn was never given the chance to shape the dialog post-Brexit. He was faced instead with an internal rebellion from the onset. The people who made this choice for him, who believed that Brexit was Labour's fault and not the Conservatives', are the same people who put Smith forward. Smith represents the view that a divided party has a greater chance of winning than Corbyn at the helm; that it is better to lose with Corbyn,or anyone else, than to give Corbyn a chance of winning. Voting for Smith condones such a view.

In one of the biggest political changes in the last 20 years, Labour's membership has ballooned. People from across the social spectrum have joined the Labour party to support the change that Corbyn represents. The biggest challenge for the Labour party in the next few years will be to motivate the new members, engage them, turn them into a political movement and a winning election machine. Yet, Smith's campaign has derided, ignored, sneered at, belittled, patronised and outright offended these new members. Instead of winning them over, Smith and his supporters have done their best to alienate them. They have not respected or supported the democratic choice of the Labour supporters; instead they have tried to undermine it from the start.

They have shown a complete lack of understanding as to why these members supported and voted for Corbyn. They have failed to grasp the vacuum their style of politics has created and Corbyn filled. Worst, they have demonstrated a persistent unwillingness to understand. Smith represents this refusal to comprehend and this is why a vote for him is a vote for misrepresentation. The lessons of the 2015 General Election defeat have not been learned. Worse, Smith's campaign and supporters accuse Corbyn and his supporters of being close-minded and tribal, yet they are the ones that demonstrate this perfectly.

To make the situation worse, it is apparent now that a vote for Smith is a vote for the politics of protest. Liam Young at the New Statesman has explained this very eloquently and his article is worth reading.
Finally, Smith is not a serious candidate. It is a sacrificial lamb at the beginning of a war of attrition against a different style of politics, a different future. He has been put forward by people who have acted out of self-interest and beliefs contrary to the wishes of their local Labour constituencies. Corbyn is not the messiah and he may not even be a great leader. He certainly has his faults and he has made mistakes. He is though, the man that has provided a long-sought after alternative; an alternative that hundreds of thousands of people craved for. An alternative that made them joined the Labour party. Smith does not provide this.

A vote for Smith condones the poor behaviour, disunity and self-interest demonstrated by his campaign and supporters. This is why is better to vote for no-one than vote for Owen Smith.

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