As a surge of supporters sign up to vote in the leadership contest, can Owen Smith save Labour?

Labour MP Owen Smith Launches His Leadership Bid
A relative unknown, Owen Smith is challenging Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership (Source: Getty)

Atul Hatwal, editor of Labour Uncut, says Yes.

Labour is in a very deep hole, and Owen Smith is the man to haul it out. Under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, the party has slumped to being over 40 points behind the Tories on the economy and leadership. There has been a total breakdown of its ability to hold the government to account in the House of Commons, with Corbyn unable to field enough front-benchers to fulfil the basic duties of the official opposition. And polls place Labour on track to score its worst result in living memory at the next election, plummeting to near 20 per cent, with over 100 MPs losing their seats. This would give the Conservatives an unassailable majority and virtually guarantee they stay in power until 2030. So things are bad. Not just for Labour, but for British democracy. Smith, the challenger for Corbyn’s crown, offers us all hope. Hope for Labour becoming an effective, united party. Hope that it can once again offer a progressive alternative to the austere grind promised by Theresa May’s Conservatives. And hope that democratic institutions once again perform their function of holding government to account.

Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary, University of London, says No.

While it’s tempting to ask whether anyone at all can save Labour, this is a question that deserves a serious answer. After all, Owen Smith may be the only man standing between the Labour Party and imminent implosion. The answer, then, depends not only on whether the challenger can beat the incumbent but also on what we mean by “save”. I wouldn’t completely rule out the possibility of Smith beating Jeremy Corbyn. However, he has a mountain to climb – one made up of hundreds of thousands of members who, for whatever reason, still seem to have faith in their leader. By positioning himself as a left-winger but questioning Corbyn’s competence, and at the same time capitalising on frustration with the latter’s underwhelming performance in the EU referendum, he’s fighting a canny campaign. But even if Smith somehow pulls it off, he won’t save Labour at the next election. Preventing the party splitting may be the best that he can hope for.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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