The First Labour Leadership Debate - Some Frivolous Observations

05/08/2016 16:33 | Updated 05 August 2016

I'm not going to spend much (or, indeed, any!) time talking about policies because it's official - both Owen Smith and Jeremy Corbyn now agree on pretty much everything with the notable exceptions of WMD and how to solve the Brexit mess. The leadership debate was in reality an hour and a half of two fellas trying to out nationalise and out invest each other.

So, putting aside the vitally important, substantial, critical stuff...How did the boys do in front of the cameras?

Owen Smith: This man is a slick, carefully schooled TV performer. No, more than that, he's a TV God. He's so good he could present Bargain Hunt. But instead, luckily for us, Owen chose to be a professional politician. Phew. He is, in fact, a professional politician down to his shoe laces which I'm sure he bought in a very normal shop, in a very normal shopping centre in a very normal town. Very occasionally during this debate I got the feeling that he actually, truly believed some of the things he said - which is always nice from a 'made for TV' politician. The trouble is, much of his performance struck me as being just that, a 'performance.' But, I suppose we should all suspend our cynicism and instead be grateful that Owen now believes in lots of things that he was diametrically opposed to a year or so ago. Progress etc.

Jeremy Corbyn: Using the yardstick by which we've been conditioned to critique modern politicians, Jeremy Corbyn is a bit crap. Unpolished, frequently reading from his notes and, being generous, a pretty weak orator. Despite his generally poor delivery it's also clear to anyone with even the most basic of radars for these things that, rightly or wrongly, Corbyn actually believes with deep conviction in what he says. Yes, he's scruffy. Yes, his jackets are bloody awful. Yes, he frequently sounds a bit knackered but there's no doubting that the words that come from his mouth, originally came from his heart.

So, the choice for Labour members is either to go for a man who could just as easily pop up as the next presenter of Strictly Come Dancing/Spring Watch/Top Gear. Delete as applicable. Or, place their faith in the present incumbent whose relaxed, (very) unpolished, deeply unconventional style continues to horrify the Labour Party establishment and, let's be fair, the British establishment generally. Sadly for him, millions of the electorate also seem horrified at the prospect of Corbyn as prime minister. In stark contrast, of course, his old fashioned naturalness and honesty enchants many thousands of ordinary party members.

If only there was a potential leader who could borrow some of Smith's undoubted presentation skills but marry them with Corbyn's undoubted substance...Funnily enough, I think there is. His name is Clive Lewis. But enough of him for the moment.

The next hustings for Smith and Corbyn are in Gateshead. If anyone is expecting that debate to turn out markedly different to this one, I think they'll be disappointed.