by Atul Hatwal
Owen Smith is in trouble. Day to day, he’s conducting his campaign, pitching his message but he has a strategic problem that is getting worse with each passing hour: definition.
Owen Smith’s PLP backers have made much of Smith being a “clean skin,” lacking the baggage of past votes on issues such as Iraq or the compromises of office.
There is something to this but his lack of prior profile also brings risk. He’s a blank page on which a story will be written, either by himself or the Corbynistas.
The hard left attack on him is very clear: Owen Smith is an ex-lobbyist for Big Pharma and a former Special Adviser, who will return Labour to the days of Brown and Miliband.
The discussion on CLP Facebook groups from across the country is testament to how this attack has already permeated through the party.
Here’s one exchange from a northwest CLP,
“Smith worked for private health companies and was a Blairite adviser. We need to be different to the Tories.”
“I heard he did work for those companies. Not sure about him but I don’t think he’s like Blair. Doesn’t Ed Miliband rate him?”
I’ve seen double digits of groups where this same pattern is being repeated. An accusation is made by a Corbyn backer with little substantive rebuttal. Owen Smith is being framed by his opponent and the few who would speak up for him have little to offer in terms of an alternative, positive definition.