Don’t Take Owen Smith at Face Value
July 20, 2016 § Leave a comment
Owen Smith is finding it hard to keep up with himself, with what he said in the past and its mismatch with what he’s saying now, how he thought he would have voted if he’d had the chance, and what he now thinks about what he thought then. It seems that one requirement for sustaining successful duplicity is having a very good memory. Or else a talent for making up the past, once you’ve disposed of the evidence – and Smith hasn’t.
Compared with the Owen Smith of a decade ago, the transcripts of his radio interviews this morning reveal more than a hint of naked opportunism. The ex-lobbyist for Pfizer and advocate of NHS privatisation, the man in two retrospective minds about voting to invade Iraq, is hard to reconcile with the man now announcing to the Labour Party membership: ‘I can be your champion. I am just as radical as Jeremy Corbyn’. The World at One today described him as positioned on the left and aiming to be ‘a more competent and energetic version of Jeremy Corbyn’. I think it’s a sign of desperation that the candidate put forward to fulfil this brief has a verifiable record of opposing the politics Corbyn represents, a record of Blairite values.
He has changed his mind, Smith’s supporters say. He is doing so with little apparent conviction. He is short on substance, and clearly hasn’t thought through the ideas he claims to represent. Even on the BBC (Newsnight, I think on Monday) the rumour was aired about whether he is only being wheeled in for temporary use until a weightier Blairite figure can be found to take over before a general election.
Smith became the leadership contender only yesterday. This is the moment of media scrutiny, of briefly probing his rival’s credentials before the focus on vilifying Corbyn resumes in earnest. For now it’s an ever present background noise. I’ve noticed a worrying deployment of language. ‘Pure’ is being used to belittle Corbyn’s agenda, as if it were some kind of extreme orthodoxy, with shades of Stalinism. Worse still, on Steve Richards’ Radio 4 Corbyn series, which I listened to intermittently this morning, I heard one interviewee condemn social-media rallying to contact Labour MPs about voting intentions, referring to this mass of young Corbyn supporters as his ‘stormtroopers’.
I’ve come across a few erstwhile enthusiasts for Corbyn’s politics who say they are now thinking of voting for Owen Smith instead, in the belief that he is some kind of left-winger. I hope they take a closer look and think twice.
For a flavour of the shifts in Smith’s views, take a look at this piece that includes an interview with him in 2006:
And you can check out the following:
Steve Bell (long may he thrive) has Eagle and Smith uniting as the dream ticket under the slogan VOTE OUT THE MEMBERSHIP.