Thursday, 21 July 2016

Owen Smith - Corbyn-lite?

by Les May
AT first sight it looks as if the decision by Angela Eagle to pull out of the contest for the Labour leadership is, from the 'plotters' perspective a good one, because it ensures that the anti-Corbyn vote will not be split.  But in the interval between now and the leadership vote there is enough time for things to turn sour, not because of anything Corbyn says or does, but from what Owen Smith himself says.

Now I was not an Eagle fan as I showed in some recent articles for Northern Voices.  There were two reasons for this. The first was that if she was as left wing as was proclaimed in the media, why should I settle for voting for a Labour party led by an ersatz version of Corbyn, when I could have the real thing?

The second developed more slowly.  I began to see that her supporters, and especially her supporters in the media, were going to fight her leadership campaign on the basis of 'intimidation' by Corbyn supporters, 'sexism' and 'homophobia', and that she was not going to set the record straight.

In fairness I should point out that it is possible to generate claims of 'homophobia' from the most innoccuous of statements as happened to Owen Smith after he talked about his family life as a married father with children and describing himself as 'normal' and there is no suggestion that Angela Eagle would endorse such nonsense.

But one thing I would not accuse her of is being someone who makes rash statements just to get elected.  Appearing to make vague promises and then not being able to deliver on them has a habit of coming back to haunt you.

Two days ago Owen Smith was quoted as saying 'I would renationalise our railways tomorrow'.  Sounds radical, but it's just playing to the gallery and telling Labour people what he thinks they want to here.  As I pointed out in this extract from an NV article in August 2015 ownership isn't the issue.  The problem is to make the system work for the benefit of the public.  

So why do I care?  Why do I, and people like me, find Corbyn by far the most appealing of all the leadership candidates? I'm not hung up on renationalisation of the railways.  But I do want them to work.  I want to be able to go into any station and book the cheapest ticket to anywhere in the country using any train.  I don't want to be crammed onto a train with too few coaches every day. I don't want to surcharged if I find myself paying the conductor.  If it takes nationalisation to make the system work so be it. If you object to nationalisation just make the system work.  Or would doing that not be 'business friendly'?

Yesterday, we were told that Smith has 'promised a second referendum on EU membership or a general election to influence how Brexit goes,' and 'it would be “tempting” to stop withdrawal from the EU if he became Prime Minister.'

Again this is just telling people what he thinks they want to hear.  If he really believes it then he clearly does not understand what is going to happen once a UK government triggers Article 50.

As I wrote in a NV article two weeks ago:

What is clear even now, and becomes clearer every day, is that try as it might, no UK government, whether Tory or Labour, is going to get access to the so called 'single market' unless it accepts free movement of workers, a.k.a. immigration. This is why: 'The internal market, or single market, of the European Union (EU), also known as the European single market, is a single market that seeks to guarantee the free movement of goods, capital, services, and people – the "four freedoms" – between the EU's 28 member states.'

There is not going to be any 'pre triggering' negotiation designed to give the UK a relationship with the EU more privileged than any of the remaining 27 members enjoy.  The choice is stark, leave the EU and maintain access to the single market by allowing free movement or negotiate with the rest of the world and pay the tariffs imposed by the EU on external trade. a.k.a increase the cost of British exports to the EU.

Owen Smith is a 'loose cannon' liable to say things he is not going to be able to deliver on.  The media love him at the moment because he's not Corbyn.  But if he keeps on making rash half promises it won't take long for someone to spot that he's just playing the game of being 'Corbyn lite' to garner votes for the leadership election.  How long before some wag asks if promising a second referendum isn't just a bit like the whole leadership challenge: keep them voting until they come up with the right answer!

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