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Owen Smith's agenda shows that Jeremy Corbyn has achieved the victory he originally wanted

The Labour's leader's aim was to shift the debate, not to win the contest.

"Now we need to make sure I don't win," Jeremy Corbyn told a supporter after he made the Labour leadership ballot last year. It was not with the hope or expectation of victory that he entered the contest. Rather, the backbencher hoped to shift Labour's debate leftwards. 

He has certainly done so now. The policies adopted by Corbyn's challenger Owen Smith put him well to the left of almost all recent candidates. Last week, he announced 20 pledges, including a ban on zero-hour contracts, a 4 per cent increase in NHS spending, a wealth tax on the top 1 per cent of earners and £200bn of infrastructure investment. Today, he has promised an immediate living wage of £8.25 for all adults and the reversal of all cuts to in-work benefits. With the notable exception of Trident renewal, there are few issues that divide him and Corbyn. 

The contrast with last summer's contest, when no other candidate fully opposed austerity, is marked. Indeed, had Andy Burnham stood on Smith's platform in 2015 it is possible that no left candidate would have entered the race. But mistakenly spooked by Liz Kendall's bid, Burnham backed further welfare cuts and struck a centrist tone (one abandoned by the contest's end). After Corbyn's victory, Smith has correctly concluded that he cannot be "too left-wing" for Labour's current selectorate. He aims to fuse the leader's radicalism with superior electability and competence. 

But as well the loyalty of Corbyn supporters to their leader, Smith faces two other major obstacles to victory. His more moderate past (supporting limited private sector involvement in the NHS, for instance) means he is branded an opportunist by opponents. Others argue that he would be captured or ousted by figures to his right. "The Blairites won't rest until they've got their party back," a shadow cabinet minister told me. Corbyn's victory - a new anti-austerity consensus - would be short-lived, his supporters fear. But a victory it is. Some left-wingers privately confess that they would rather have won the debate than the contest. "We simply weren't ready to lead," a senior figure told me. But as Marx observed, men make their own history, but not in circumstances of their choosing. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: André Spicer
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“It’s scary to do it again”: the five-year-old fined £150 for running a lemonade stand

Enforcement officers penalised a child selling home-made lemonade in the street. Her father tells the full story. 

It was a lively Saturday afternoon in east London’s Mile End. Groups of people streamed through residential streets on their way to a music festival in the local park; booming bass could be heard from the surrounding houses.

One five-year-old girl who lived in the area had an idea. She had been to her school’s summer fête recently and looked longingly at the stalls. She loved the idea of setting up her own stall, and today was a good day for it.

“She eventually came round to the idea of selling lemonade,” her father André Spicer tells me. So he and his daughter went to their local shop to buy some lemons. They mixed a few jugs of lemonade, the girl made a fetching A4 sign with some lemons drawn on it – 50p for a small cup, £1 for a large – and they carried a table from home to the end of their road. 

“People suddenly started coming up and buying stuff, pretty quickly, and they were very happy,” Spicer recalls. “People looked overjoyed at this cute little girl on the side of the road – community feel and all that sort of stuff.”

But the heart-warming scene was soon interrupted. After about half an hour of what Spicer describes as “brisk” trade – his daughter’s recipe secret was some mint and a little bit of cucumber, for a “bit of a British touch” – four enforcement officers came striding up to the stand.

Three were in uniform, and one was in plain clothes. One uniformed officer turned the camera on his vest on, and began reciting a legal script at the weeping five-year-old.

“You’re trading without a licence, pursuant to x, y, z act and blah dah dah dah, really going through a script,” Spicer tells me, saying they showed no compassion for his daughter. “This is my job, I’m doing it and that’s it, basically.”

The girl burst into tears the moment they arrived.

“Officials have some degree of intimidation. I’m a grown adult, so I wasn’t super intimidated, but I was a bit shocked,” says Spicer. “But my daughter was intimidated. She started crying straight away.”

As they continued to recite their legalese, her father picked her up to try to comfort her – but that didn’t stop the officers giving her stall a £150 fine and handing them a penalty notice. “TRADING WITHOUT LICENCE,” it screamed.

Picture: André Spicer

“She was crying and repeating, ‘I’ve done a bad thing’,” says Spicer. “As we walked home, I had to try and convince her that it wasn’t her, it wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t her who had done something bad.”

She cried all the way home, and it wasn’t until she watched her favourite film, Brave, that she calmed down. It was then that Spicer suggested next time they would “do it all correctly”, get a permit, and set up another stand.

“No, I don’t want to, it’s a bit scary to do it again,” she replied. Her father hopes that “she’ll be able to get over it”, and that her enterprising spirit will return.

The Council has since apologised and cancelled the fine, and called on its officials to “show common sense and to use their powers sensibly”.

But Spicer felt “there’s a bigger principle here”, and wrote a piece for the Telegraph arguing that children in modern Britain are too restricted.

He would “absolutely” encourage his daughter to set up another stall, and “I’d encourage other people to go and do it as well. It’s a great way to spend a bit of time with the kids in the holidays, and they might learn something.”

A fitting reminder of the great life lesson: when life gives you a fixed penalty notice, make lemonade.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.