Last week’s Labour Leadership hustings in Cardiff was the ultimate showdown; Corbyn V Smith – the Battle of the Socialists. In the Blue Corner, Jeremy Corbyn, reading from a script and engaging in passive aggressive, mediocre debate. In the Red Corner, Owen Smith – strong, determined, breathing fire and passion; ready to bring the fight to the Tories.
I arrived in Cardiff completely exhausted. I had been working at a festival, and after a sticky train journey, a half hour walk and a taxi-ride, I finally arrived at the event (albeit a tad flustered, panda-eyed and in desperate need of caffeine.) If truth be told, I think I’ve been in a constant state of exhaustion since March, what with studying for my A Levels and campaigning with Stronger In Europe. From revising the failures of the Chartist movement, to having my fingers deliberately jammed in letter-boxes while canvassing for the referendum, the past couple of months have done little to boost my political morale. Even more demoralising however, was my own party leader’s complete inability to communicate a convincing, positive, inspiring pro-EU message. Jeremy let me, and millions of others, down. I cannot forgive him.
Don’t get me wrong, I concede that he made various media appearances – but as I have pointed out numerous times on Twitter, it’s all about quality not quantity. It would be naive of me to solely blame Corbyn for the referendum result – which is surely a product of numerous factors – but I do feel as if I have been made to look a fool. I, like so many other Labour activists, worked tirelessly to ensure a Remain win – while Jeremy made unhelpful and futile remarks on TV and failed to cooperate with Labour In For Britain and Stronger In. According to the public, Labour’s position on the EU appeared undecipherable just a few weeks before the referendum, and with Vote Leave’s willingness to capitalise on this with their big red battle-bus, I felt frustrated, angered, by Jeremy’s lacklustre media performances. The fact he was asked by Andrew Marr whether he actually voted Remain perhaps demonstrates the blatant scepticism he displayed in the months running up to the referendum. I had been reminded of these feelings when I was given an EU pin-badge at the festival earlier that day. I nearly cried.
So, as I sat down in the hall, EU pin-badge displayed with pride, I braced myself for yet another uninspiring speech by Corbyn on why Article 50 should be triggered “now.” To my surprise, Corbyn appeared to deny that he ever made such remarks – I was baffled, bemused. Even after the referendum, he continued to treat me like a fool. However, I did not leave the event feeling disheartened. I left feeling inspired by Owen Smith – wish his promise to take a second EU vote to the electorate and ensure the best possible outcome for the British public. In comparison, Corbyn seemed to be a Brexit-apologist, with no clear vision or plan.
Owen Smith’s pro-EU message shows his commitment to the generations of young people who were betrayed by the vote to leave the EU on 23 June. It demonstrates his willingness and determination to fight on behalf of people like myself, who see their future firmly within the European Union. In Owen, I see a true leader – an individual capable of not only uniting Labour, but holding the Tories to account and forming a Labour government. He has already displayed his true dedication to the Labour cause, battling and defeating the Tories on issues such as tax credit cuts and in so doing, defending the poorest in society. I would like to personally thank him for this on behalf of my own family.
On Thursday evening, Owen’s message oozed positivity and, most importantly, provided tangible policy (which has unfortunately been missing for the best part of a year). Although Jeremy has reminded Labour of its roots as a ‘social movement,’ Owen is the candidate capable of providing a forward-thinking and outward-reaching Socialist government. Now is the time to build upon the momentum (!) provided by Jeremy’s time as leader and propel the party into a new age of competence and governance. Only then, can we put into action the social justice which all Labour members seek to achieve. In Owen, I see a leader who truly represents me and millions of others throughout the country. In Owen, I see hope; hope that in the foreseeable future, a Labour government will be able to write the wrongs of Tory rule and better society for all.
You’ve got my vote, Owen.
Martha O’Neill is a Young Labour member in Wales.