I came to the debate supporting Jeremy Corbyn. I left backing Owen Smith

by Brian Back

Passions were running very high in the audience for this debate.

This was particularly apparent when Smith stated he was scared the Party would split and that disunity would lead to electoral failure, which to the many Corbyn supporters in the room, seemed hugely hypocritical, as to them, he was one of the main causes of the disunity.

On the whole, Corbyn seemed more passionate than Smith. There is absolutely no doubting his genuine commitment to the cause and to the socialist program he proposes.

However, although Corbyn had passion, Smith was slicker in his presentation.

Much of the time, their ideas were very similar- except on Trident! On Trident; although Smith put forward a decent argument, Corbyn’s knowledge, understanding and passion seemed to clearly win this round, on which Smith conceded that they would just have to agree to disagree.

Because of the similarity of most of their ideas, it is obvious to see that Corbyn has already achieved his main original aim- of bringing socialist ideas back to the forefront of the Party’s manifesto.

In fact, it would be true to say that Smith is entirely a child of Corbyn’s leadership, as, due to all the new members that Corbyn has attracted, Smith has no choice but to put across a similarly left-wing program, without which he has no chance of winning over Corbyn’s supporters, or of retaining their support as members, if he wins this contest.

So, in this, we can already judge Corbyn a success.

As for the debate; who had more success?

Corbyn had a greater number of supporters, so he naturally received more applause.

However, Smith had a surprisingly large number of supporters on his side too, who reacted equally passionately to his points.

At times, it was difficult to see any difference between what they were saying, as they were both very much against austerity and very much in favour of government investment.

However, there was one key difference between them; although Corbyn was more passionate, Smith was the more effective speaker.

Smith was more eloquent and persuasive.

Whilst Corbyn discussed the need for investment, Smith put it into very clear, specific, concrete terms- laying out exactly where investment would go and where the money would come from. This made him sound much more prepared, much more professional and to be honest, much more Prime-Ministerial than Corbyn.

Because of this, I have to reluctantly concede, that although I am totally disgusted with the disloyalty and Machiavellian manoeuvring within the Party that has led to this contest, on tonight’s showing, Owen Smith is more effective at conveying his ideas than Corbyn.

Let me make it clear; I love everything that Corbyn stands for. I love the fact that he has massively increased the size of the membership and I really love the fact that he has made the Labour Party return to its socialist roots.

However, although his passion and his genuine commitment to true Labour values has attracted many thousands of new members to the Party, I don’t believe that he has what it takes to persuade sceptical swing voters to vote Labour. I don’t believe that he has what it takes to persuade voters that they should trust Labour with the economy.

On tonight’s showing, I have to reluctantly concede; that Owen Smith would be much more effective at persuading the average man or woman in the street that they should trust Labour with the economy and that massive borrowing- to fuel massive investment, is more prudent than continued austerity under the Tories.

Owen Smith is a more effective speaker, so he would be more able to communicate his ideas and persuade voters to trust him and vote for him. But, on top of this, he also just looks and sounds much more like a potential Prime Minister than Corbyn. Although Corbyn supporters would argue (and I would agree) that this is a very superficial reason for supporting Smith, it is unfortunately one of the main reasons why he would be more successful than Corbyn. Although we might like to think of ourselves as logical, rational creatures; the recent Brexit vote made it very clear that this is not the case. Many voters vote on instinct, intuition, or just first impressions. The impression that Smith gives is overall, more impressive and professional than the impression one gets of Corbyn.

Obviously, this is all just based on what I have seen in tonight’s debate. Things may change throughout the course of the contest- this is just my first impression.

However, as we know, first impressions count- first impressions last.

I voted for Corbyn in the previous leadership election, but tonight, Owen Smith made a greater impression on me than Corbyn. If he can persuade me that he is a better choice than Corbyn, then I believe he has a much greater chance of persuading the electorate to vote Labour.

On tonight’s showing, I have to reluctantly concede; that Labour would have more chance of winning the next election with Owen Smith as leader, rather than Jeremy Corbyn.

Brian Back is a sociology lecturer and Labour campaigner who blogs at brianbackblog

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16 Responses to “I came to the debate supporting Jeremy Corbyn. I left backing Owen Smith”

  1. Mike Pennell says:

    I share your observation that Owen Smith is more likely to be listened to in the country. My unease is caused by the knowledge that anyone other than Corbyn would be listened to at the present time because of the months of attrition from within and without the party.

    I am also afraid that if Smith wins he might shortly be replaced by someone more agreeable to the bulk of the PLP and that Corbyn will be unable to compete again because he will then need support of 50+ MPs.

  2. Mark Livingston says:

    Strange. I went to the debate backing Smith but come out backing Corbyn! Owen Smith has a lot of work to do in terms of sounding sincere. He’s got a lot of New Labour “suit” but very little substance. All I heard from him was a lack-lustre sales pitch.

  3. Anne says:

    Hit the nail on the head with this one Brian

  4. Tafia says:

    ‘Oily’ Smith is blatantly insincere. Corbyn was the better of the two.

  5. Peter Kenny says:

    Trouble is Brian, Owen doesn’t believe it. Aren’t you concerned about someone who as you say has “no choice” but to echo Corbyn on many points.

    What about choosing to say what he thinks?

    He’s a ‘false flag’ candidate in my view.

  6. Kieron says:

    Owen Smith has the vocal intonations of a man who thinks he is smarter than everyone in the room.
    Owen Smith’s words, however, betray this.
    He comes across as smug, insincere, lacklustre and void of substance.

  7. Iain says:

    I was not impressed with Owen Smith’s personal attack on Jeremy Corbyn claiming that there had been a increase of abuse in the Labour Party since Jeremy Corbyn had been elected Leader and that Jeremy Corbyn was responsible.
    Obviously a scripted PR gambit and Nasty very Nasty.

  8. Iain says:

    I was not impressed with Owen Smith’s personal attack on Jeremy Corbyn claiming that there had been a increase of abuse in the Labour Party since Jeremy Corbyn had been elected Leader and that Jeremy Corbyn was responsible.

    Obviously a scripted PR gambit and Nasty very Nasty.

  9. Oh, if only we could believe that Owen Smith would deliver on what he promises. That his PR style would not only win an election for Labour, but also then carry out all of Corbyn’s policies. Problem is to have that sort of belief would need a super religious faith.

    On the other hand we already know from their previous statements that many Smith supporters do not believe in those policies, that they wouldn’t last five minutes in an Owen Smith administration and that we would back to the usual suspects with their rehashed Blairite third way policies. Still if you really are a true believer perhaps you would like to see this bridge in London that I am selling very cheap.

  10. Jeff Lever says:

    Sadly, most of the attacks on us made by the Tories, such as creeping privatisation of the NHS, academisation of schools, and PFI, originated with recent Labour governments. It is clear from Corbyn’s long political history, and the trenchant opposition to him from the right wing, that a Corbyn-led Labour party would be a break from that trend, and that this break had majority support in the Labour electorate. Therefore it has become necessary for the opposition to Corbyn to rebrand itself as Corbyn-lite so as to defeat Corbyn. That new brand is Smith. Hence the Rigbt supports Smith, since they appreciate his history of having adapted his policy stance to his own immediate career interests. Presently summarised as social democracy with nuclear weapons, but with proven flexibility to adapt, once in power, to nuclear weapons without social democracy.

  11. Tafia says:

    ‘Oily’ Smith offered ‘Corbyn-Lite’ – a blatant play for the left. A ridiculous tactic thatthe voters won’t buy because they know Smith – if he won (which he won’t) will quickly step down and the Blairist rearguard would then stand and attempt to drag the part back to the right again.

    The members know – if you want a democratic socialist party answerable to the membership, Corbyn is the only way.

    Oily (and thus the remants of New Labour) is going to get absolutely humiliated in the vote. And the cowards of the Labour right will continue to plot away in the shadows like Gollum until such time as the re-selections commence and the real revolution starts. The Gollums know this so you can expect more disloyalty, more challenges, more two-year-old behaviour. It’s them and their cowardly antics that are making Labour unelectable – and the public know it and are disgusted by it.

  12. David Walker says:

    Brian, it doesn’t make much sense to ditch a leader whose socialist agenda you are in agreement with, for a usurper who is trying to ape the incumbent but clearly doesn’t believe a word of what he himself is saying.

    As for being more electable, the last 2 Welshmen weren’t easy to sell on the doorsteps of Basildon, Nuneaton and Worcester. How many non-English party leaders have won a general election in the last 100 years or so? I can’t think of any. Labour doesn’t have anyone who is electable, so blaming Corbyn for not being electable either is just laughable.

    Corbyn wants to build a social movement that will change the game that Labour no longer has a hope of winning. It’s a longshot, but electing Owen Smith would just lead to Labour losing the next election a little less chaotically. He can’t win. Nor would he deserve to.

    The PLP should just support Corbyn as best as they can and see how it works out when the public gets the opportunity to vote, rather than responding to a survey. If Corbyn ‘s Labour does as badly as you expect, most of his supporters will melt away.

  13. Saul Sorrell-Till says:

    @ David Walker: “the game that Labour has no chance of winning”… I’m glad you’ve conceded that you have no interest in Labour’s electability but really what’s the point of your supporting them? What are an unelectable Labour going to do for the poor, for the exploited workers, for recovering junkies, for the disabled, for minorities getting it in the neck after Brexit…?

    I’d be utterly ashamed of simply asserting that a party that was IN POWER just six years ago is now unelectable, and if I actually believed it(as you say you do) I’d be even more embarrassed of supporting them.
    What’s the point of supporting a party who you believe will never take power? There’s something morally repugnant about sitting there proclaiming that the world has changed and Labour should just not bother with the whole ‘getting elected’ thing. If you’re not interested in democracy, in actually doing the hard work involved in getting elected; if you’re not prepared to allow your ideals to bump up against the ugliness of the real world; then go away and support some protest group. Labour is the only opposition the Tories have, people in this country need them to function as a democratic party, and you are a selfish, solipsistic drag on their ability to do that.

  14. paul says:

    the issue is the man not really the policies..look at the recent centre left leaders clinton,blair,obama,alexis tspiras,justin trudeau,renzi in italy..all charismatic communicators ….to win as a centre left politician you need charisama in the age..its superficial but true..cameron with all his flaws we agree looked the part and had a confidence about him which ed milliband didnt have and corbyn is worse…. we also need a leader who swing voters will vote for and feel confident in his ability,people have already formed an opinion about him ..didnt sing the national anthem etc hes done he will carry on for a few yrs but hes already been framed.My friends who are not really tory or labour dont take him serious.in addition the U.k is not a socialist country anymore what we fight for is an acceptable form of capitalism…im sure the next labour leader will be in 2025 bcos Mrs May will win a second term she will modulate her policies and rid the tory party of the party for the rich tag..in aaddition many labour voters will vote for her bcos they just dont see corybn as a leader..the issue is him hes not a leader he is great at protesting but shouldnt lead a political party at all,the labour party is not a movement its a party and 500,ooo members cant lord it over 9million labour voters..corbyn is done

  15. John P Reid says:

    Thanks for the guardian link
    Regarding the idea that if Smith, or a better PR person in Corbyn clothing , would win and step down, for a centrist, the plan maybe hatched again in 2018, to oust Jeremy again, but it would be too obvious at that time

    Owen is saying a lot of things, that maybe true, trouble is he can’t prove them

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