Several Labour Party members believe the outcome is known, but after weeks of debate, a single candidate – Owen Smith – has been put on the ballot paper to take on party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has faced much opposition since the June 23 Brexit vote.
The final candidate to challenge Corbyn was decided after MPs decided between Smith and Angela Eagle, who withdrew on Tuesday evening when the former got more votes. The election will be held over the next two months before the party’s annual conference.
Given the overwhelming support Corbyn enjoys among party members – with many more joining in recent weeks – many believe his re-election is assured, putting a question mark over the gain for the party in going through the motion of holding the election.
Pitching himself as “just as radical as Corbyn”, Smith said, “I will want to work side by side with Angela throughout this contest. I want to say to all members of the Labour party tonight, young and old, longstanding and new members: I can be your champion.”
Smith toured television and radio studios on Wednesday morning, setting out his vision for Labour and Britain, and responding to concerns about his earlier roles in the pharmaceutical industry.
Reiterating the claim that people had lost faith in Corbyn, Smith said if he won the leadership contest, he would offer Corbyn the chance to become president of the party. “Jeremy has still got a lot to say for the Labour Party, but I don’t think Jeremy is a leader in parliament. But I would absolutely want him to take a role like president or chairman,” he said.
Acknowledging the appeal for Corbyn’s radicalism in the party, Smith, however, said: “For that to have a real effect in Britain, we have got to be a powerful opposition to the current Tory government.
“And we have got to be a credible government-in-waiting in order to put those principles and that radicalism into practice, because without having a chance to win power it’s all hot air.”