'Corbyn has been an abject failure': Owen Smith supporters on the Labour leadership

Last week, we asked Labour supporters attending Jeremy Corbyn’s rallies and speeches how they felt as the leadership election unfolded.

This week, we ask the same of Owen Smith supporters.

It’s been a good week for Corbyn, after he won the first round of the latest high court battle over the rules of the Labour leadership election and shored up his support on the party’s ruling National Executive Committee. But some readers we heard from were optimistic that Smith can still mount a significant challenge for the leadership.

Corbyn and Smith will go head to head in a second live hustings event in Gateshead on Thursday.

‘The future of the Labour Party depends on Owen Smith’

I’ve never felt comfortable with Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. I fully recognise why people voted for him last summer and I tried to respect his infamous mandate, but continuing on our current path is simply letting this right wing Tory government off the hook. Smith is offering a genuinely radical platform which should appeal to those who supported Corbyn, while also showing his willingness to speak to those who didn’t vote for us at the last election. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the future of the Labour Party depends on Owen Smith’s election.

From my experience, he’s winning them over. Those who were involved in the 1980s are going to continue to support Corbyn regardless of polling, however newer members are coming over to Smith now they’ve seen how the Corbyn experiment has turned out. People join the Labour Party because they care deeply about social justice - and Smith is demonstrating that we can only make radical change in this country by being a government in waiting, rather than just a protest movement.

I’ve supported the Labour Party since 2008 and joined in 2010. I’ve campaigned in every election and referendum for the party since then, and it’s incredibly distressing to see how impotent our party has become.

Thomas Messenger , London

‘Jeremy has been an abject failure as leader’

As a postal worker of over 30 years service, I feel Owen has the ability to reach out beyond the Labour heartlands and make the case for a future progressive left government. Jeremy has been an abject failure as leader, as highlighted by his duplicity over the Brexit vote.

When I saw him speak, Owen was articulate and impassioned, laying out his vision for Labour. I believe the more hustings, the better, as they will manifestly show Owen to be the better candidate and future leader.

I left feeling inspired. Above all, Owen offers the left hope.

Bob McGuigan, Watford

‘Corbyn stands for a brand of grumpy oppositionism’

If I hadn’t joined two years earlier, I would have been one of the Milifandom. Though Ed was often criticised for his lack of vision, I always felt it was perfectly clear what he stood for; an enabling state, in which the government acts to redistribute wealth and opportunity not by crude tax and spend, but by trying to restructure the economy so that it benefits the poorest as a priority and enables the middle to thrive.

I was never enthused by Jeremy Corbyn. He stands for a brand of grumpy oppositionism which stands against everything bad but says very little practical about what it is for. His vision, aside from being impractical, is actually terribly uninspiring, and I feel as though many of his supporters simply project onto him whatever they want to see.

Owen Smith stands for a long-standing tradition in the Labour movement, the same one as Ed Miliband, Neil Kinnock, Harold Wilson and Clement Attlee.

He’s not in this to rail against the things we all dislike about society, but to espouse concrete policy to make the country more equal, prosperous and just. The changes he announced to pension tax relief would free up billions to be spent on the reinvestment our left behind areas need.

With the right plan, a coherent vision and iron-clad message discipline, Labour could be equipped to talk to the country in a way we haven’t for far too long. Not just swing seats, though of course we need to gain those, but in areas which desperately need investment but in which we haven’t historically competed - Cornwall, for instance, and the East of England.

Robin Wilde, Sheffield

Smith seems to share much of Corbyn’s radical agenda’

I watched Owen speak for an hour and a half in London last month. He enthused me with the passion and drive Corbyn doesn’t inspire. At the time I was still sceptical of Smith’s past at Pfizer (though he has since addressed this and these concerns evaporated), but was won over by his oratory skills and crystal clear policy plans. I didn’t fully trust him at that time, but I liked him and his ideas and immediately placed him ahead of Corbyn in my mind.

I voted Corbyn last year, but have since been completely let down by his abysmal skills as a politician: he seems unable to untie, persuade, negotiate, organise and communicate any solid policy ideas. Even worse, he seems happy to protest rather than govern and let the Labour party split rather than step down. His performances in PMQs were terrible.

Smith seems to share much of Corbyn’s radical agenda but be a much more capable politician and orator.

‘Owen and his platform reminds me of John Smith’

I introduced Smith at one of his rallies, so I may be biased. However, for what it is worth, it was hopeful.

It hasn’t been a great time to be on the wrong side of the leadership and be a young woman. That night, for the first time in a really long time, I felt empowered. Empowered because they entrusted me to speak on his behalf, but also because his words resonated with my life. The atmosphere was intense and passionate, and it made me utterly hopeful for once.

Many years have passed since I could envision a candidate as a Labour PM. Owen and his platform reminds me of John Smith, in more ways than one. I attend Corbyn events, as I have as an excitable and loyal activist, and I am not enthused by the monotone, generally standard speech. There is no gravitas in the room because you go into knowing he will not be PM. This his words, however great they are, don’t resonate. They have no depth because they will never translate into policy. Owen Smith’s costed, coherent policy platform feels entirely different. I listen to his pitches at his rallies and I feel it matters. That’s the feeling that makes me want to vote for him: his words matter. They could be policy.

It’s hard to say what impact Smith is having on other Labour supporters. I hope in the long run, challenging entrenched perceptions. Some of my Corbynite friends have shifted, others remain to be convinced.

Jade Azim, London

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