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Here’s why not to vote Owen Smith

2nd August 2016

Want Labour to win an election?  Here’s why not to vote Owen Smith

Michael Calderbank, Secretary Brent Central CLP explains why not

He didn’t speak out against the austerity-lite policies under Ed Miliband

Labour’s manifesto at the 2015 election agreed to further reductions in public spending, and proposed cutting pay in real terms for workers like teachers, nurses and dinner ladies.  Labour’s support eroded further, especially in Scotland and the Party’s former industrial heartland seats, but also in key marginals. Smith served in Miliband’s shadow team without raising any criticism of this position, yet appears to be opportunistically rebranding himself as the champion of anti-austerity.

He failed to oppose the scapegoating of benefit claimants

Jeremy Corbyn won widespread support for his refusal - unlike all the other leadership candidates last time round - to vote for the Second Reading of the Welfare Reform Bill. The measures in the Bill were aimed at penalising some of the most vulnerable in society. Smith abstained in the vote, and argued in favour of the benefit cap, and said “we are in favour of limits on what individual families can draw down”. Smith failed to highlight the lavish subsidy to landlords resulting from rocketing housing benefit bills by putting the case for rent controls. Instead, he argued for abitrary spending caps which would punish those on low incomes struggling to pay the rent. 

He can’t be trusted to fight the incursion of private finance into the running of the NHS

One of the areas in which Labour currently polls most strongly is over the National Health Service. People understand the dangers that the Tory NHS Reform Act poses in terms of unleashing the profit motive into the running of our cherished public service. But as a lobbyist for giant multinational pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer, Smith endorsed a report which advocated “offering NHS patients easier access to private sector healthcare”.  As a prospective Labour candidate he welcomed the use of the Private Finance Initiative to build new hospitals, and claimed objections to these disastrous contracts were “ideological” and “overblown”.

He would concede further ground to the far right

Smith criticised Corbyn for having “liberal perspectives” on immigration, and was reported as saying some parts of Britain have “too many immigrants”.  How many is “too many”?  Is this really the territory we want Labour to be occupying?

His stance on foreign policy is unprincipled and opportunistic

Hardly anyone in the Labour Party has a good word to say about Tony Blair’s decision to invade and occupy Iraq.  But whereas Jeremy was a consistent opponent from the outset, Smith previously argued that Labour’s support for military “engagement to remove dictators was a noble, valuable tradition”. Smith later supported the Tory proposal that Britain should impose a no-fly zone on Libya, and in his campaign launch argued we should be proud of having “patriotically intervened around the world to help impose and understand our values across the globe”.  Why should we believe that he would refrain from justifying further disastrous wars under the guise of “humanitarian intervention”?  As a former member of CND who now countenances the idea of pressing the nuclear button, are there principles which he wouldn’t jettison?

He seems to have a problem with women

As they face Theresa May over the dispatch box, it will be essential for the Labour leader to express sharp political disagreements with the Tory Prime Minister without lapsing into misogynistic or sexist attitudes. Smith’s track record in this respect creates a real cause for concern. The violent reference to wanting to “smash” (May) “back on her heels”, came after an inappropriately jocular reference to domestic violence, and the accusation that Leanne Wood only gets on the media because of her gender, suggests he has a problem with women.

He isn’t a leader who “breaks the mould”

There exists a widespread public distrust of the professional political elite, whose frame of reference is conditioned by their life experience having taken place overwhelmingly within the Westminster bubble. Smith has worked in the media as a political Special Advisor, and was a corporate lobbyist before becoming an ambitious Labour MP.  What will make the public believe that that he is any more than just a typical career politician?

A return to the old order under a new leader is the last thing Labour needs. Only by persisting with radical alternatives can Labour regain its popularity. That’s why I’m voting to Keep Corbyn.




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