There are still a few hours left in the Labour leadership race but judging by Owen Smith’s mood you wouldn’t know it. In an open letter to supporters, Smith has all but conceded defeat in the race. He described the summer contest as a ‘long and bruising’ encounter and went on to say that the ideas he suggested during the bloody leadership bout…
‘…will remain as relevant after this contest as they have been during this contest. They are part of my vision for Labour and Britain’s future and whatever the outcome of this contest I will continue to make these arguments and do all I can to see us back in government.’
His letter marks a quiet and depressing end to a campaign which never really recovered from Diane Abbott sticking the knife in during the early stages of the contest. YouGov’s latest poll suggests Corbyn could enjoy as much as a 20 point lead over his rival when the result is announced on Saturday. And the bookies are so sure of Corbyn triumphing that if you wagered £100 on him winning you’ll win just £1 back.
Smith has hardly helped himself in this race: offering to get around the table with Isis was a stand out blunder. But even when Corbyn has made gaffes himself, the damage has been limited. The same YouGov poll which suggests Corbyn will win comfortably on Saturday reveals the row over the Labour leader claiming he had to sit on the floor of a ‘ram packed’ Virgin train did barely anything to change people’s perception of Corbyn; if anything, remarkably, it made ten per cent of those polled like him more.
But Smith’s letter is not only an acceptance Corbyn will win – it’s an attempt to justify himself from the likely furious backlash facing him for standing up to the Labour leader. He says to party members of this summer’s contest: ‘I know many of you didn’t want it to happen. But the truth is it had to happen.’
The problem for Smith is that assuming Corbyn does indeed win on Saturday, this leadership contest has achieved nothing save for deepening rifts within the party. Labour’s old leader is likely to be it’s new leader and Smith’s fed-up concession letter signals a bleak future for Corbyn opponents that things can only get worse.