Owen Smith stands as ‘radical and credible’ contender for Labour leadership
Watch: The Labour MP set out his stall in a quickfire quiz.
Pontypridd MP Owen Smith branded himself as the “radical and credible” alternative to Jeremy Corbyn as he launched his bid for the Labour leadership.
Speaking to the Today programme on Tuesday morning, Smith used the phrase twice.
It reflects the former shadow work and pensions secretary’s belief that he can reach Corbyn supporters while also appealing to the wider electorate. In particular, supporters of Smith think that he is better placed than Angela Eagle to win a leadership contest because he was not in parliament for the Iraq war and has pitched himself on the soft left of the party.
However, on the Today programme Smith opted against going into full Corbynista mode. In a quickfire quiz, he supported Trident renewal and said that he did not believe that Tony Blair lied to parliament about Iraq. He also insisted that he did not want to split the Labour party.
Smith has thrown his hat into the ring after Labour’s ruling body, the National Executive Committee, said Corbyn would automatically be on the ballot without needing to collect nominations from MPs.
On the Today programme, he said that Corbyn had to be overhrown but was careful not to put the boot in too heavily.
“The widespread belief now in the Labour party that whilst Jeremy is a good man with great Labour values who has done a lot for this party and I think changed the debate in this country about our economy, he’s been right about lots of things,” he said.
“But he is not a leader who can lead us into an election and win for Labour and working people in this country cannot afford to have a day like today where the Tories are popping champagne corks and celebrating their coronation and the prospect of a Labour government feels so distant for working people.
“We can’t afford that in Labour, we need to turn the page.”
He also sought to distance himself from any suggestions of a plot against Corbyn, insisting that it was a small faction of right wing MPs who had been guilty of attempting a coup.
“I was not ever part of any plot or coup against Jeremy Corbyn, I refused to have any part in those discussions and I think it has been destructive from a small group of people on the right who, just like those on the left, it seems to me, are now prepared to see Labour split,” he said.
Support for Smith is understood to be growing among Labour MPs, with some who had nominated Eagle's leadership bid already switching sides to back her rival.
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