On Owen Smith

Owen Smith is the worst person in British politics

I have been struggling to put my finger on exactly why it is that I loathe Owen Smith with such a visceral, burning, contemptuous rage. It’s neither healthy nor seemly – to the extent that I have nearly hit “send” on a few truly nasty social media comments which I would never normally make before finally regaining my composure and putting the iPhone safely out of reach.

It’s as though someone carefully and methodically packaged absolutely everything that I hate about modern politics into the greasy, grinning form of one man and paraded him on the television news every day to raise my blood pressure.

There’s the oleaginous, media trained (but not sufficiently that it looks convincingly natural and authentic) television persona.

There’s the craven cowardice of pretending he is every bit as old-school socialist as Jeremy Corbyn in a pitiful attempt to peel off Corbyn’s voters when we all know that he is the Parliamentary Labour Party’s centrist mole.

There’s the sanctimonious waffle about Saving Our Blessed NHS (genuflect) from privatisation, admittedly hardly unique to Owen Smith but particularly eyebrow-raising coming from the mouth of somebody with his past career and political track record.

There’s the deliberately old-school typeface and stylistic theme employed by his campaign (see picture at the end, or his pitiful website), designed to evoke thoughts of 1970s and 1980s Labour when his campaign is the living embodiment of the PLP’s mission to suppress Corbyn’s throwback movement.

And then there’s Brexit. Oh yes, and then there is Owen Smith’s incessant, petulant whining about Britain’s decision to leave the EU, his channelling of the metro-left’s howl of anguish at the thought of being separated from their beloved European Union and his declared intention to nullify the public’s vote using any means at his disposal.

But on this occasion, Dan Hodges actually says it best, excoriating Owen Smith for his lacklustre campaign, broken political radar and sheer amateurish incompetence:

It took precisely 24 hours for Smith’s clean skin to be scarred by the stigmata of Blairism. He had worked as a consultant for ‘Big Pharma’. He had welcomed private sector involvement in the NHS. He had guardedly backed the Iraq War.

His skill as a media performer was demonstrated on Wednesday, when he tried to boast of his pivotal role in the Northern Ireland peace process. When this John Terry-style glory-hunting fell flat, he tried to further embellish his credentials in international conflict resolution by announcing he would happily sit down for talks with Islamic State.

Whereas most Labour politicians content themselves with waving the red flag, Smith opted to wave a black one. An hour later Corbyn’s camp issued a statement distancing themselves from his stance, leaving Smith the only person in British political history to be outflanked by Jeremy Corbyn on the issue of national security.

Questioned about the ongoing bullying and intimidation of Labour members who do not support Corbyn, Smith the dogged street-fighter pleaded: ‘I am not a Blairite, I am a socialist just the same as you. I have never been a Blairite.’

That last exchange perfectly encapsulates Smith’s strategy. His message has essentially been: ‘I am just like Jeremy Corbyn. I believe in the same things as Jeremy Corbyn. Ditch Jeremy Corbyn.’

Amazingly, this ‘Dump Corbyn, Get Corbyn’ line isn’t resonating with the Corbynite true believers. For the simple reason that while many of them are stark-staring mad, they aren’t stupid. This is how Smith thought he could secure the Labour leadership. ‘Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters are very Left-wing,’ he told himself, ‘and I need them to vote for me. So I’ll pretend to be very Left-wing too. That’ll fool them. Then I can start dragging Labour back to the centre-ground, which is where it has to be if I’m going to get to be Prime Minister.’

As a master-plan for wooing Corbyn’s supporters into his warm and pragmatic arms, it was utterly brilliant. Except it had one fatal flaw: It was so childishly transparent and craven, every Corbyn supporter in the land knew it was his master-plan.

A weak plan from a weak and utterly forgettable man. In a decade’s time, nobody will remember who Owen Smith is. He will have returned to some anonymous career as a lobbyist or PR man, and will have a footnote in history as somebody who once caused minor irritation to Jeremy Corbyn for a few months.

The Parliamentary Labour Party could of course have put forward someone with more gravitas and prime ministerial potential, but they didn’t. To a man and woman, they prized their own political careers over the opportunity to lead Labour to likely defeat in 2020. In many ways, Owen Smith is the collective cowardice of Labour’s remaining big beasts, given human form and a uniquely irritating grin.

And Hodges is absolutely right – the bait and switch move that Owen Smith is trying to pull would be obvious to a ten-year-old. The 1970s font and protestations that he agrees with Corbyn on policy isn’t fooling anyone. He is treating Labour Party members with open contempt by even asking them to swallow his ruse, and I have no doubt that he will catastrophically underperform even the rock-bottom expectations of the Westminster political class when the results of the Labour leadership contest are announced.

Ultimately, my problem with Owen Smith is this: now that Corbynism has been unleashed within the Labour Party, it can only be comprehensively tackled and beaten back through defeat at the ballot box in a general election. Anything else – whether it is forcing Corbyn to resign, shenanigans to set up a shadow “party within a party”, disenfranchising his supporters within the party or changing the rules to thwart him – will be insufficient. It may succeed in removing Corbyn, but Corbynism will live – his supporters will be enraged and his successor will have almost zero scope to change direction without seeing the bottom fall out of the Labour Party at the grassroots level, effectively destroying the party.

By contrast, if Jeremy Corbyn is permitted to unapologetically lead Labour to a landslide defeat in 2020, then the centrists have a much fairer shot at regaining control of the party. Corbynism will be discredited and rejected by the British people, and the opening for an alternative will again exist.

Owen Smith represents the Parliamentary Labour Party’s craven, ill-considered plan to try to circumvent that process. For reasons that this blog has previously explained – primarily impatience to return to power for the sake of their own political careers – a 2020 defeat and potential 2025 victory is simply too long to wait for a bunch of oily careerists who didn’t lead blandly forgettable lives and forego careers in the banking sector only to rot away, as they see it, on the backbenches. And so unwilling to even give Corbynism a chance to fail on its own, the restive PLP has decided to try to reassert their control now.

But it won’t work. No political party can long endure when its elected representatives are so markedly at odds with the grassroots membership, the ordinary people who knock on doors and hand out leaflets to get their MPs elected in the first place. And Owen Smith’s candidacy represents a giant two-finger salute, fifty feet high and covered in glitter, directed at Labour Party members who strongly support Jeremy Corbyn.

There’s a great episode of The West Wing where two of President Bartlet’s aides, Communications Director Toby Ziegler and Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman, are left behind by the presidential motorcade during an election campaign stop and have to hitchhike their way back to Washington D.C. The two men begin to get on one another’s nerves as the ideological Toby Ziegler demands to know why the politically calculating Josh Lyman isn’t more enthusiastic about the president’s barnstorming stump speech, in which Bartlet aggressively criticises his Republican opponent.

After Toby’s rant,  Josh finally snaps and tells Toby:

“Which is one of the reasons that I work full-time for his opponent. I don’t know what gave you the impression that I had to be convinced, but I want to win. You want to beat him, and that’s a problem for me, because I want to win.”

I’ve always thought that this is an important distinction, one which I try to apply in my own political thinking. Far nobler it is to want to win, to convince others of the rightness of one’s cause, than to want to beat the other side and take enjoyment as they suffer the bitter pangs of defeat.

During the EU referendum, I genuinely wanted the Leave campaign to win more than I wanted to defeat the Remain campaign. Despite immense provocation from the political establishment and many on the Remain side, I was generally motivated more by a desire to secure a better and more democratic future for my country than to make Remainers sad or to wipe the smug smile off George Osborne’s face (though that has certainly been a wonderful bonus).

Not so with this Labour leadership election though. I want Owen Smith to lose. I want him to lose big, and lose hard. I want him to suffer such a humiliating, lopsided, landslide defeat that he bursts into tears on live television and has to run from the conference hall in shame and ignominy. And I want the Parliamentary Labour Party, who cynically used the shocked aftermath of the EU referendum as a pretext to launch an antidemocratic coup against their elected leader and their own members, to behold this gruesome scene and take their lesson from it.

I’m not proud of it, but that’s what this despicable, oleaginous, ideologically rootless C-list politician does to me. The sooner British political life is rid of him, the better.


Owen Smith - Labour Party Leadership Coup

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Social Justice Warrior Karma, Part 1 – Owen Smith Edition

Owen Smith - Social Justice Warrior

He who lives by the sword dies by the sword

Well, well, well.

Once again, leftists are reminded that the revolution always eats its own:

Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign has demanded an apology from Owen Smith after the challenger apparently described his rival as a “lunatic”.

Corbyn’s team reacted with anger over claims that Smith, a shadow Cabinet minister until just weeks ago, used the term about his former boss at a rally in London last night.

The Labour leader, who has himself faced an onslaught of criticism overnight because of his controversial video on a “ram-packed” Virgin Train service, said Smith’s language had descended into “personal abuse”. This morning Smith issued a partial apology.

[..] “And what you won’t get from me, is some, you know, lunatic at the top of the Labour Party, you’ll have someone who tries to form a coherent narrative about what’s wrong with Britain,” it is claimed Smith said.

A spokesperson for the Jeremy for Labour campaign, today said: “Owen Smith has degraded this contest by descending into personal abuse. He should apologise to people suffering with mental illness, many of whom would have been dismayed and upset to to hear such offensive language used in public by a Labour politician.

“He should also withdraw his remark, and spend time with people suffering from mental health problems to develop some sensitivity in his use of language. This is simply not the language that someone standing to lead our party should use, and it injects an ugly tone into this contest that no Labour member wants to see.”

Smith’s intervention also prompted dismay from the Labour Campaign for Mental Health. In a statement posted on Facebook today the group said: “While we tend not to comment on the leadership contest, we were saddened to see that the term ‘lunatic’, a term with a long history of abuse toward those with mental illness, has been used in this contest as a term of derision against a colleague. We, as a party, should be fighting to end the stigma and support those in our community with mental health issues, and not use these cruel, oppressive names to insult opponents.”

One probably shouldn’t gloat at Owen Smith’s misfortune – but let’s indulge ourselves just this once. Because nothing restores the conservative soul more than watching preening, virtue-signalling Social Justice Warriors self detonate on the very same verbal land mines they themselves have laid across our political and cultural discourse.

Does anybody seriously think that people suffering with mental illness are in anguish today because of Smith’s remarks? Is anyone at this moment penning an angry letter declaring “On behalf of lunatics everywhere I am appalled by Owen Smith’s cavalier appropriation of the term ‘lunatic’ and his lazy attempts to describe the state of madness while making a political point”? Of course not.

But this is the rod which the preening social justice Left have made for their own backs. They have weaponised language to such an extent that even normal, everyday expressions are loaded with dynamite – not because their use actually “harms” the so-called victim group in question (lunatics, in this case) but because it offends other professional offence-seekers on the Left, parasitical people who gain power and social status within their social circle by pointing out and loudly criticising the supposed intolerance of others.

And you have to hand it to the Corbyn campaign – they responded magnificently to Calamity Owen’s latest gaffe, immediately portraying their man as the virtuous Protector of the Mentally Ill, standing up to Smith’s supposed deliberate denigration of their suffering. Like Ronaldo on the receiving end of a light tackle, Corbyn played the victim brilliantly, immediately falling to the ground and flopping around (metaphorically speaking) as if stunned by Owen Smith’s sheer inhumanity, before donning the white robes of virtue and sanctimoniously “defending” mentally ill people from a supposed microaggression which none of them would have noticed in the first place were it not for Corbyn’s skillfully weaponised victimhood.

But don’t feel sorry for Owen Smith – he will have learned nothing from this latest escapade. Despite himself now having come under attack twice for violating PC / Social Justice dogma (the “smashing Theresa May back in her heels” remark, and now this) you can be sure that Smith will soon have reverted to type, clutching his pearls in mock horror and seeking to make political capital out of the garbled speech of some or other unfortunate Conservative MP. He knows no other way. None of them do.

Snarling, weaponised victimhood is literally all that the modern Left have going for them at present.


Owen Smith - Labour Party Leadership Coup

Top Image: BBC

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The Jeremy Corbyn-Fearing Elite Has No Right To Impose An Ideological Test On Britain’s Potential Leaders

Jeremy Corbyn rally - Kilburn State - Labour leadership - 2

Labour’s rebellious centrists and their media allies are not merely refuting Jeremy Corbyn’s quaintly antiquated socialist ideas – they are seeking to suppress the expression of these ideas by mainstream politicians altogether, and to establish a strict ideological test for elected office based on the existing narrow centrist political consensus. But that is no way to kill off bad ideas.

If political history through the ages teaches us anything, it is that suppressing an idea or airily declaring any political belief to be haram, off limits, out of bounds for discussion, is a surefire way to kindle support for that idea and imbue it with an often-undeserved air of nobility.

Bad political and social ideas – communism, eugenics, holocaust denial, social justice – are only defeated when they are debated, subjected to the full rigour of public scrutiny, and ultimately found wanting. Suggesting that something is so inherently offensive that its demerits cannot even be discussed in public makes martyrs out of a banned idea’s adherents and pushes it underground to fester and grow out of sight of society – until, of course, it bursts forth in dangerous new ways.

I stress this obvious point because  we see the same forces of ideological suppression (and the fightback against it) playing out before us now, in the form of the Labour leadership coup against Jeremy Corbyn. And if we are not much more careful in our response to Corbyn’s leadership and almost inevitable victory in the second leadership election, we will succeed only in making a martyr out of Corbyn, dignifying his more antiquated beliefs or distasteful associations and perpetuating the problem rather than tackling it at source.

“But Jeremy Corbyn is unelectable!” thunders the media and assorted Labour Party figures (I would say big beasts, but there seem to be none of those left). They say this as though people’s political views are fixed and immovable, as though the political centre of gravity has never shifted before when moments of crisis and opportunistic change-makers combine, and as though the Overton window of British politics cannot be moved. They say this by way of suggesting that Britain’s voters essentially form an ideology-free, centrist blob, and that it is the job of politicians to bend, flatter and shapeshift as best they can in order to appeal to this blob without ever challenging them.

If that is their view of politics – and their every action and statement regarding the Labour leadership turmoil suggests that it is – then this is truly depressing. It tells us that too many of our political elites have given up on any notion of true leadership, of having a vision to improve the country they love and then exhorting others to achieve that goal, and that they instead see the British population as troublesome noisemakers to be placated and soothed with the “right” policy mix as determine by polls and focus groups.

It is, in fact, the very opposite of Margaret Thatcher’s ideal of political leadership, as laid out a decade before she even took office:

There are dangers in consensus; it could be an attempt to satisfy people holding no particular views about anything. It seems more important to have a philosophy and policy which because they are good appeal to sufficient people to secure a majority.


No great party can survive except on the basis of firm beliefs about what it wants to do. It is not enough to have reluctant support. We want people’s enthusiasm as well.

The dangers of consensus… This phrase should be setting off alarm bells today, because in the establishment’s horror and revulsion at Jeremy Corbyn and his quaintly old fashioned socialist views, the prevailing ideological consensus is revealed – that narrow band of political opinion within whose boundaries all “mainstream” politicians are expected to remain.

On issue after issue, we are told by outraged columnists and troublemaking centrist Labour MPs that Jeremy Corbyn’s political positions are not simply wrong or misguided, but that they are unacceptable, beyond the pale, immediately disqualifying the holder from even seeking future elected office. The net effect of this manufactured outrage is to effectively declare support for old-fashioned socialist principles to be a career-ending form of political thoughtcrime. Question the purpose of NATO in 2016, or the Trident nuclear deterrent, and it is akin to pulling the pin on a grenade and holding it under your chin – the commentariat will blow your head off before the electorate even get the chance to pass their own judgement.

It is as though it is no longer enough for the party we personally support to reflect our own views and priorities – we now expect opposing parties to reflect them too. This is a politically stultifying and increasingly ludicrous state of affairs. As a small-c conservative I believe strongly in maintaining our nuclear deterrent, a strong military, the NATO alliance, low taxes and small government. But I don’t for a moment expect the leader of the Labour Party to hold these exact positions, too. And while it would be calamitous were Jeremy Corbyn to become prime minister by some dark miracle and actually enact all of his policies, I trust in the wisdom of the British people to see through his policies and reject Corbynism at the ballot box.

And that’s the difference, I suppose, between this blog and the political and media establishment. I trust the people to look at the political parties and refuse to vote for a party campaigning on a manifesto which is so clearly damaging to our economy and national interests. The establishment do not trust the people, because they do not respect the people. They have no faith that the British people will make rational decisions when presented with a range of political alternatives – therefore they see it as their job to artificially limit our choice beforehand, taking certain options off the table by declaring them “unacceptable” and suppressing their very discussion by mainstream politicians.

(Most of the establishment, horrified by the result of the EU referendum, will see Britain’s vote for Brexit as vindication of their paternalistic approach toward the masses. They are not shy in their opinion that the stupid British electorate were “tricked” into voting for Brexit against their own interests, and will now be strengthened in their resolve to ensure that any future big decisions are settled quietly and a consensus forged between the main parties, well away from the voters).

This arrogant, paternalistic approach by the establishment is poisoning our politics. And it is why this blog has consistently supported Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party, despite my obvious and profound political differences with him. I support Corbyn not out of some Machiavellian desire to destroy the Labour Party or otherwise make mischief, but because Corbyn gives voice to certain ideas and policies which, while they might not be popular with the country as a whole, are passionately held by many people and deserve to have a public hearing – if only so that we can expose and discredit them again.

Toppling Jeremy Corbyn and replacing him with the kind of bland, telegenic, youthful centrist which the Parliamentary Party so clearly wants (for we all know that Owen Smith’s pathetic leadership campaign is doomed) would mean that all those who favour Corbyn’s left-wing ideas no longer have a voice or a stake in our national politics. This is both unfair to his supporters and harmful to our own national discourse, because the superiority of conservative principles and policies cannot be proven beyond doubt when we are forbidden from even discussing their socialist antonyms.

This is why the Labour Party must now split into a woolly, bland centrist party virtually indistinguishable from Theresa May’s government and a zealous, socialist populist party led by Corbyn – assuming that Labour MPs remain so selfish and career-minded that they are unwilling to allow Jeremy Corbyn to flame out on his own at the 2020 general election.

At present, it seems as though Labour’s centrist MPs are in no mood to do any such thing. They simultaneously want to regain power in 2020, yet none of their remaining “big beasts” think that they have a good enough chance of doing so that they were willing to put their precious careers on the line by standing for the leadership. As Pete North lucidly explains, that is why the pathetic Owen Smith is on the ballot rather than somebody of real substance and gravitas. They will not strike out on their own and form a new centrist party, and nor will they accept Corbyn’s leadership, even for a few years (a mere drop in the ocean in terms of the Labour Party’s long history).

So what is the answer? More stalemate, apparently. If Jeremy Corbyn wins a second Labour leadership election in the space of a year, he will have the undisputed right to lead his party. But Labour’s centrist MPs will not accept his legitimacy, and will continue fighting one another like ferrets in a sack, doing all they can to force Corbyn prematurely from office.

This is stupid. Jeremy Corbyn has earned the right to lead his party, and to take Labour into the 2020 general election on the basis of his markedly left-wing policies. All Labour centrists have to do is wait for Corbyn fever to break against the walls of a sceptical British electorate at the next general election and they can install one of their own as the next leader with little opposition from a chastened and defeated left wing. The only thing stopping them following this approach is personal greed and a selfish regard for their own careers above those of the party and the country’s political discourse. Don’t listen to all that sanctimonious, faux-sentimental drivel about how the country “can’t afford four more years of the Evil Tor-ees” – it is more the case that their inflated career expectations cannot afford four more years in the political wilderness rather than climbing up the greasy pole.

One way or another, the establishment seems determined not to give the quaintly antiquated socialism of Jeremy Corbyn the opportunity to fail on its own. Labour’s centrist MPs do so because they are hungry to pursue what they see as the quickest route back to power (and some fear losing their seats in a 2020 anti-Corbyn landslide), and the rest of the political and media establishment do so because they are alarmed by Corbyn’s views on NATO, Trident and other issues, and do not trust the British people to likewise see the flaws in these ideas and reject them.

Of course, the sad irony is that by going to such extreme lengths to prevent Jeremy Corbyn’s socialist ideas being tested in a general election, the establishment is doing more than anyone else – more even than Corbyn himself – to harden support for those failed ideas, ensuring that they live on even longer past their “sell by” date.

Furthermore, the idea of centrist MPs enforcing what is essentially a de facto ideological test for any politician seeking high national office is grossly offensive to our democracy, revealing the establishment’s contempt for the people in all its hateful glory. We the people are more than capable of determining which political ideas are good, bad, offensive, dangerous or otherwise, and we have no need for a sanctimonious elite to pre-screen our choices for us.

The only things necessary to defeat Corbynism are Jeremy Corbyn himself and the British electorate. It’s sad that Labour MPs and the political / media establishment are simultaneously too selfish and too distrustful of the British people to realise this obvious truth.


Jeremy Corbyn - PMQs

Top Image: Huffington Post, Jack Taylor/Getty Images

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Owen Smith Yearns To Defy The British People And Thwart Brexit. Let Him Try.

Owen Smith’s desperate, EU-loving Labour leadership candidacy is a giant F-U to the very people the Labour Party needs to be courting if it ever wants to regain power

Fresh from announcing his plans to host a jolly afternoon tea party for Islamic State in the gardens of Buckingham Palace, contemptible Labour Party nobody Owen Smith has continued to set about alienating Labour’s already furious working class base by pitching himself as a champion of the metro-left’s childish demand that democracy be overturned and the EU referendum result disregarded.

From the Guardian:

Owen Smith has accused Jeremy Corbyn of having never believed in the European project and is seeking to turn the issue of the EU referendum into the key dividing line in the battle for the Labour leadership.

The Labour leader hit back by telling his challenger that he had to respect the result of June’s referendum and accept that Brexit was on the table.

In his strongest attack yet, Smith – whose team are planning to place debate over the EU at the heart of their campaign – said:

“I think Jeremy can’t bring himself to say he would argue for a second referendum or put into a Labour manifesto that we would stay within the European Union because he fundamentally never believed in the European union.

“That is why he steadfastly refuses [to promise a second referendum], even though he acknowledges a likely Tory Brexit will diminish workers’ rights; damage social protections; damage our ability to deal with tax avoidance. Even though he thinks that is likely to happen, he thinks it more important that we stay outside the EU – I think that is a deep deep mistake.”

Smith, who is trailing well behind in the polls, hopes that a pledge for Labour to take Britain back into the EU will appeal to pro-European Labour members and boost his chances.

“We should be fighting harder, why can’t you say you would fight to stay in?” he shouted.

Why won’t he FIGHT, mummy? Why won’t the Bad Man fight for us to stay in our pwecious European Union? Why won’t he stand up to the Evil Tor-eees and make the wefewendum wesult go away? It’s not fair mummy, it’s not fair!

Pathetic. Utterly pathetic. If by some complete miracle (probably involving the abduction of Jeremy Corbyn by aliens) Owen Smith does become leader of the Labour Party, what little is left of Labour’s depleted working class base will march off into the sunset forever. Labour will be able to add northern England to Scotland on the growing list of UK regions where anyone wearing a red campaign rosette is no longer welcome.

You know what? Good luck to him. I hope Owen Smith actually wins the Labour leadership contest and joins up with other antidemocratic snakes like Hampstead & Kilburn’s Tulip Siddiq in trying to derail Brexit in Parliament. If Smith thinks that things are bad now, I look forward to observing the expression on his face when the entire fabric of the Labour Party comes apart in his well-manicured, pampered, ex-lobbyist’s hands as he loses his faltering grip on constituency after Brexit-supporting constituency.

I look forward to future generations of politics students learning about the daring exploits of Owen Smith, the man who stuck two metropolitan fingers up at Labour’s own working class voter base and led his party to true, permanent electoral Armageddon.

So bring it on, Owen. Hug the European Union even tighter, tell all the Brexit-supporting people whose votes your party needs to go to hell again, and bring. it. on.


Owen Smith - Labour Party Leadership Coup

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Handed A Softball Question On ISIS, A Miscalculating Owen Smith Self Destructs

Owen Smith, the supposedly mature and electable alternative to Jeremy Corbyn, is nothing but a pale, naive and cheap imitation

There could hardly have been an easier question asked of the two Labour leadership contenders, Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith, during the hustings/debate broadcast on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show this morning.

Moving the focus on to the Islamic State (sorry, so-called Islamic State – this being BBC world), Derbyshire asked both men whether or not they believed that any peace process in Syria should involve representatives from ISIS.

Immediately alarm bells should have been sounding in Owen Smith’s head, for this was the most primitive of political traps. Anything other than a robust “hell no!” would instantly be taken to mean woolly socialist accommodation with Islamist extremism, and so the correct thing to do was clearly to temporarily forget nuance, give the robust “hell no!”, and then move on.

Even Jeremy Corbyn managed to get it right. He was clearly lying through his teeth – given his public statements on Hamas and other violent organisations, everyone knows that a Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn would fawningly seek to include ISIS in any negotiations. That’s just who he is. But even Jeremy Corbyn, the man who supposedly lacks a political radar, recognised the trap and said “They’re not going to be around the table, no” when put on the spot by Derbyshire.

Meanwhile Owen Smith, desperate to out-socialist Corbyn at every turn while portraying what he mistakenly thinks is an air of grown up realism, charged headlong into the trap, saying:

My record is I’m somebody who has worked on the peace process in Northern Ireland for three years, I was part of the UK’s negotiating team that helped bring together the loyalist paramilitaries, the DUP in particular into the process, alongside Sinn Fein, and my view is that ultimately all solutions to these sorts of crises, these sorts of international crises, do come about through dialogue. So eventually, if we are to try and solve this, all of the actors do need to be involved but at the moment ISIL are clearly not interested in negotiating.

I’m sorry, which one is the waffling socialist dilettante with no understanding of political communications again? Because for all the world it looks as though Owen Smith is the prevaricating incompetent here, not Jeremy Corbyn.

Let us count the ways in which Owen Smith is wrong. Firstly, there is no comparability between the Troubles in Northern Ireland and the ideology-driven, pan-national phenomenon of the Islamic State.

While it sounds statesmanlike and mature (clearly what Owen Smith was striving for) to intone that serious compromises have to be made on both sides in the pursuit of peace, citing the Northern Ireland peace agreement as evidence, it is a very poor comparison. For the Troubles, for all their complex history, were characterised very much by the narcissism of small differences – the furious hatred  which built up between two very similar communities living side by side (Catholic vs Protestant, Nationalist vs Unionist).

When peace negotiations were underway, both sides were prevailed upon to accept a power-sharing agreement in a devolved assembly as well as weapons decommissioning and early prison release for convicted terrorists on both sides. The shared pain was ultimately acceptable to both sides because there was an attractive, shared goal to work towards in the form of a peaceful and more prosperous Northern Ireland.

The difference between the West and the Islamic State (or even between peace-loving Syrians and the Islamic State) does not fit this profile in the slightest. We are not talking the narcissism of small differences, but the belligerence of exceedingly large differences. Islamic State seeks to conquer and occupy territory, and impose its impossibly strict, fundamentalist Wahhabist dogma on all those with the misfortune to become its citizens. There is no compromise, no half-way terms of peace for which the subjugated people of Iraq or Syria could sue, let alone countries like Britain, France and America ,which are the Islamic State’s overseas targets.

The kind of negotiations fancifully suggested by Owen Smith in his failed bid to appear mature and statesmanlike are simply not possible with Islamic State. By their own words and actions, ISIS does not compromise or water down its demands or dogma. “Live and let live” is neither possible nor desirable. Nobody is realistically going to get the Iraqi government to agree to a power-sharing deal involving the surrendering or dilution of sovereignty over its cities. And in the case of Syria, the ongoing civil war means that there is no one authority to speak on behalf of Syrians anyway.

More than anything, this incident serves to underline the sheer superficiality of the Owen Smith candidacy. While this blog was previously encouraged that Smith had at least a few policy ideas of his own (one step better than the hapless Angela Eagle, whose pitch for the top job seemed to rest entirely on her winning personality) these have proven to be nothing but a restatement of Jeremy Corbyn’s own ideas, the kind of policies which a Corbyn manifesto would no doubt have outlined prior to the general election anyway.

With almost zero policy difference between the two candidates, Owen Smith’s only remaining advantage over Corbyn was his supposed electability. Unlike Corbyn, we were told, Owen Smith will avoid making the faux-pas, media missteps and party management howlers which have caused the parliamentary party such unease. And yet in his desperation to defend his left flank, Owen Smith walked into the kind of headline-generating trap that even Jeremy Corbyn managed to avoid.

Did the Parliamentary Labour Party really just squander any opportunity to take the fight to the Tories after the EU referendum and the ascension of Theresa May just to replace Jeremy Corbyn with a third-rate flop of a leadership candidate in the form of Owen Smith? Is this oily, vacuous dilettante really the best that they can do?

Where are the latter-day equivalents of Barbara Castle, Peter Shore, Hugh Gaitskell, Clement Attlee, Aneurin Bevan or Tony Benn?

How small are the creatures who now seek to bestride the shrunken Labour Party?


Owen Smith - Labour Party Leadership Coup

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