Jeremy Corbyn has inspired change in Labour, now Smith should be trusted to carry it forwards
I am a little bit left wing — a trade unionist since I started working and a Labour Party Member for about 17 years.
I voted for Jeremy Corbyn last year and I am one of the small group who voted for Diane Abbott in the previous leadership election. I set up and chaired a very active Momentum branch in Medway.
I am also supporting Owen Smith in his leadership campaign.
Over the last ten months, I became increasingly frustrated with the leadership of the Labour Party. I hear the policies put out by John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn and I wholeheartedly support them. I cheer the support and rejuvenation they have brought to our party.
But what I see in practice is different. I see a leader confined by an inability to compromise and to reach out to make alliances — the basis of pragmatic politics.
In Wales, Labour maintained its control of the National Assembly this year only by building an alliance with the Lib Dems’ single AM. That alliance saw off an unlikely collaboration between Plaid Cymru and UKIP.
Alliances in politics matter and create success. Yet, while Carwyn Jones is left to negotiate the future of Port Talbot Steelworks with Theresa May, we are left with a party leadership in Westminster which cannot bridge alliances within our own party.
The operation of the current leadership permeates throughout the Momentum movement. Nationally, the failure to communicate and engage on supported policy is chronic.
Organisers hand out policy and approaches as a done deal with little, if any, consultation to committees, let alone members. Even the national committee was scarcely consulted on the instant selection of Rhea Wolfson as an NEC candidate after Ken Livingstone fell from grace.
Momentum, like the Corbyn leadership, is a body on the brink of self destruction; unable to listen, blindly pushing out ideology while local groups flounder unsupported, and just a few unpopular decisions away from collapse.
My father passed away at the end of May. In true Welsh style, the community turned out and visited my mother and me. In the time spent over cups of tea and memories, conversation often drifted to politics and the message that came out from old family friends was ‘you’ve got to get rid of that Jeremy Corbyn’.
These were solid Labour voters. People who actually were part of the communities that came together and organised during the Miners Strikes. Traditional, old fashioned socialists.
They understand the need for a strong socialist party in government, but have no confidence in Corbyn’s Labour.
My confidence, which was waning, was knocked. At work, in a heavily unionised environment, people told me they had always voted Labour but had strong doubts now.
The final straw came after EDF finally made a decision to proceed with the Hinkley Point C project, which I have worked on for five years as a Branch Councillor with Prospect.
As a union, we have worked solidly with our colleagues in Unite, GMB and UCATT to support this project, which represents an £11 billion investment in the UK business economy, which will create over 25,000 UK jobs. It will produce seven per cent of the UK’s power needs with a vastly reduced carbon footprint, avoiding 90 million tonnes of CO2 production annually and is predicted to generate three per cent of the UK’s entire corporation tax when in production.
The project was initially conceived under a Labour government and has been supported by Labour, but team Corbyn’s response was derogatory and facile.
Tories have just put up the cost of your electricity by giving a blank cheque to EDF for a power station that doesn’t work
— Jeremy Corbyn MP (@jeremycorbyn) July 28, 2016
This tweet mocked the work of hundreds of nuclear engineers who have worked doggedly for years devising design solutions to combat the safety concerns raised by Fukushima. There was no advised policy, there was no coherent response and there was no support for the work of the unions.
I have felt immense relief in leaving the Corbyn camp and joining with Smith. We need a strong, organised Labour Party and he is offering that.
Owen, as a committed, soft left politician can relate to and embrace the needs of a Labour movement that has cried out for change. He has seen how the membership feels and responded. He is offering policies that sit firmly on the left but the real difference is in what he personally offers.
His policy is offered in a way that works within the constraints of our political system. It’s offered with the support of the majority of MPs who desperately want to represent the entirety of the Labour movement and make a difference to people’s lives.
Different leaders have different strengths. Many agree that Winston Churchill was a good leader in wartime but an abysmal peacetime prime minister.
Corbyn has been an inspirational force for change, but now we need to continue that change by adopting a leader who can hear the message and move the party onward to electoral success. To do that, we all need to admit and put aside our differences and work together.
We need to to build on the inspiration generated by Corbyn, by entrusting the party to the safe hands of Smith.
Rachel Garrick is vice chair of Rochester & Strood Labour Party and a trade unionist with Prospect.Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.