Don Brind on Smith’s message to 2015 Corbyn voters with buyers’ remorse
“I’ll tell you what sums up Jeremy Corbyn for me. When we had a march through Westminster he made sure he was right at the front and carrying a banner. But when it came to the hard graft – talking to businesses and government he was nowhere to be seen.”
Anna Turley the MP for Redcar is perched on a desk in her office in front of her predecessor the late Mo Mowlam – “she’s revered in this town” — and she is talking about the fight to save thousands of jobs after the closure of Redcar steelworks in September last year.
Turley was recording a video exposing Corbyn’s shortcoming’s as a leader. The video will be part of a series which will be sent out by the Owen Smith campaign as more than 640,000 Labour members and registered supporters begin receiving their ballot papers by post and email.
Corbyn’s claim to have created the largest political party in Europe is only true the extent that he has inspired equal and opposite passions – people signing up to back him or sack him. As I highlighted here, the 120,000 recruited through Saving Labour campaign are a game changer and mean Corbyn could lose.
A key strand in the Corbyn campaign has been to channel anger against the 80 per cent of Labour MPs who supported a motion of no confidence in the leader. “What we are doing” explains Turley, “is putting a human face to the PLP. The Corbyn campaign has been attacking the PLP. The truth is that the vast majority of MPs were loyal to Jeremy and tried to make things work. He failed to show the leadership we needed.”
The target for these human face videos is former Corbyn supporters now feeling buyers’ remorse. Another MP who has recorded a video about life under Corbyn’s leadership is the former shadow transport secretary Lilian Greenwood whose eloquent defence of her decision to resign has been widely quoted.
The scene has been set for the “human face” videos by the Heidi Alexander-Sadiq Khan double whammy. Despite the golden news from Rio, the former Shadow Health Secretary and the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan elbowed their way on to the front pages of the Guardian and Observer with their devastating critiques of Corbyn’s failure as a leader.
The Observer reports Khan’s “brutal attack” on Corbyn as a sudden change of heart – only two days earlier he has spurned the chance to declare his hand on the Today programme. In fact, I see the quick fire salvoes as a well-planned manoeuvre. The two London MPs are close friends and know what it takes to win elections. Alexander was number two to Khan in the successful London borough campaign in 2014 when Labour took control of an extra six councils. She was then chair of Khan’s mayoral campaign last year. She is now vice chair of the Smith campaign.
Smith and his team believe there are a large number of potential switchers from Corbyn who will be impressed by the personal testimonies of people who did their best to make a success of their jobs despite what Alexander calls the “entirely dysfunctional” working of the Corbyn shadow cabinet.
In the Observer Khan says that if Corbyn remains leader “the Tories will stay in power, and Labour will stay in opposition.”
The accepted wisdom is that Sadiq Khan’s appeal will fall on deaf ears. For Corbynistas electoral defeat is a price worth paying for having a leader with values and policies they like. They turn out in their thousands for Momentum rallies and nomination meetings.
But the vast majority of the 640,000 strong selectorate never go anywhere near these events. I stick to my view that the result on September 24th is too close to call.