Owen Smith has told us he’s both ‘radical’ and ‘normal’. It doesn’t take a genius to work out those characteristics aren’t compatible. Yet, Owen Smith knows he needs to try and be both if he is to defy the huge odds and win this Labour leadership race. And therein lies the problem. Smith is deftly attempting a balancing act between praising Corbyn (his ‘radical’ bit) whilst trying to offer those policies in a more electable package (the ‘normal’ bit).
So can Smith manage to do both? It’s going to be a tricky ask but he tried his best just now during his Today interview. After praising Corbyn as someone who had been ‘great at identifying the question’ he tried to move things on to suggest he is the man to provide the answers. He said that at the moment Corbyn’s anti-austerity was just a slogan, not a solution; and he said his approach would be a £200bn investment fund to try and kick-start growth. Smith went briefly on the attack when he suggested that Corbyn kept on going on about the housing crisis but hadn’t put forward any suggestions of what to do about it. By contrast, Smith said, he would start building 300,000 houses a year if he made it to No.10.
And yet, talk of policy seems a long way off and Owen Smith knows it. He has an uphill climb to defeat Corbyn. So what is his answer for tackling his opponent? His trump card seems to be insisting that even if he wins, we can look forward to President Corbyn (of the Labour party that is). Owen Smith said:
‘Jeremy has a way of communicating that many of our members find very appealing. Jeremy has great Labour values and Jeremy still has still got a lot to say for the Labour party but I don’t think Jeremy is a leader. I don’t think he is a leader in Parliament but I do think he has got a lot to say for Labour and I would absolutely want him to take a role like President or Chairman, as we’ve had in the past.’
It’s clear from the amount of times Smith repeated the word ‘Jeremy’ in his leadership pitch that he knows what his greatest hurdle is to winning the Labour leadership. And yet he also knows that even if he manages to win what looks set to be a vicious fight, Corbyn – and those backing him – aren’t going to disappear anytime soon.