Owen Smith gets talking about (yet another) revolution

Written by David Singleton on 22 August 2016 in Diary

Labour leadership hopeful criticises New Labour - but also echoes language used by Tony Blair's allies.

Owen Smith has promised yet another revolution as he insists that party members should have a real say over Labour policy.

Earlier this month, the Labour leadership hopeful promised "a new industrial revolution". This plan could "make Britain the workshop of the world once more," he pledged.

On another occasion, Smith risked comparisons with Alan Partridge by calling for “revolution not evolution.”

“Our job is to level the playing field for individuals and whole communities. So that wherever you live, or whatever disadvantages you set out with, you can live a good life," he said.

“But to achieve that we need revolution not evolution. Not some misty eyed romanticism about a revolution to overthrow capitalism.”

And now the Labour MP has now come up with a new revolution that he wants to foment.

In his latest big speech, Smith said he understood the exclusion that members felt in recent years when the party’s annual conference had not been sovereign. Therefore he would lead “a revolution in accountability” in which members would get to sign off on the general election manifesto.

As members began to receive their leadership ballots, Smith said:

“I know the biggest fear that is in members’ minds on this day when they are considering making up their minds on this choice, is a concern we will go back there again, to a period of top-down control where members were to be seen and not heard. I promise you it will not happen if I am the leader of this party.”

Smith has already set out plans for a “members’ cabinet” that will advise the party leadership on issues important to the membership.

His latest comments follow Jeremy Corbyn’s announcement on Sunday of a raft of proposals for party democracy.

The Labour leader pledged a sovereign conference, a charter of rights for party members and widening representation on the party’s National Executive Committee to reflect the rapid rise in membership.

In his latest speech, Smith also risked the wrath of centrist Labour members as he took a swipe at Tony Blair, saying that under his leadership the party had lost touch with ordinary members.

In a clear appeal to voters on the left of the party, Smith said: “New Labour tried so hard to make sure it didn’t alienate the powerful that I’m afraid too many people in our country, too many people in our movement found it impossible to distinguish between the Labour party and the institutions we were created to challenge.

“A party that was formed to take on the Establishment ended ups sometimes being mistaken for the Establishment and when that happens we lose touch with what we’ve been and what we are and with our people and we pay the price in lost faith and lost voters.”

Ironically, Blair’s reign over Labour was described as a revolution by some of the former leader’s closest allies.

New Labour architect Peter Mandelson co-authored a 1996 book called: ‘The Blair Revolution’ while Blair’s polling guru Philip Gould penned the definitive guide to the New Labour project under the title ‘The Unfinished Revolution'.



Picture by: Ben Birchall/PA Wire/Press Association Images


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