As Katy reports, Labour appeared rather divided at its leadership hustings today. Behind the scenes, Owen Smith does seem to be attracting the greater support, including defectors from Angela Eagle’s camp. Some of those around Eagle are upset that their party may be about to elect yet another man when a woman has had the bravery to start the leadership contest and to take a great deal of abuse for doing it too (her office had a brick thrown through its window last week). But they accept that even their party’s rather embarrassing failure to get anywhere close to the Tories in terms of female leaders is a second order problem compared to getting rid of Jeremy Corbyn.
This is why a good number of MPs who have given Eagle their support have privately told me that they too will abandon their support for her if necessary in order to ensure that there is just one challenger to Corbyn. A number of them accept that Eagle is indeed behind Smith on nominations, and suspect that he will go down better with the Labour membership, which is also all that matters. Smith has not yet been accused of being a Blairite, while Eagle has been (thereby swelling the numbers of the lonely and isolated Blairites considerably, along with all her other colleagues who have been lumped into that unpopular political faction for the sole crime of not believing Jeremy Corbyn to be a winner). But the truth is that no one really knows where the membership is. So Labour MPs are still taking a punt on whoever they back.