“I’ve got a wife and children”: Owen Smith’s Andrea Leadsom moment

The Labour leadership contender listed having a family as one of the reasons he is “normal”.

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The Labour leadership candidate and MP for Pontypridd Owen Smith is under fire for claiming that having a wife and children makes him “normal”.

During an interview with Sky News (watch below), written up by the Evening Standard, Smith responded to an observation made by his fellow guest, MailOnline reporter Matt Dathan, that he could be perceived as “normal”:

Matt Dathan: “One of the things a lot of the public always say is that we want someone normal in politics, we want someone normal leading our party, and the very fact that, Owen you’re [air quotes] ‘normal’ is maybe an asset.”

Owen Smith: “I’m glad you think I’m normal. I am normal. You know, I grew up in a normal household. I’ve got a wife and three children. My wife’s a primary school teacher. I’ve been in Parliament for a couple of years now, six years, and before that I had two or three other jobs, in business, and in politics and advising on the peace process in Northern Ireland.

“And I think I can bring that normality, that sense of what our communities want. I live in the patch where I grew up, and I represent it and I’m very proud of that.”

 

Although he was listing a number of factors that make up his “normal” guy pitch, his inclusion of having “a wife and three children” is controversial. This is chiefly because it suggests that if he were unmarried, or didn’t have children, he would somehow be something other than normal. An incendiary observation, particularly in light of the fact that his key opponent in the Labour leadership race is a gay woman, Angela Eagle.

Smith’s gaffe is most likely a sign of naivety rather than nastiness. Nevertheless, it betrays a worrying lack of sensitivity and media experience for someone striving to be one of the most senior politicians in the country. Especially in light of another television interview he recently fluffed, by saying “austerity is right”. (The line should have been that he is running on an “anti-austerity, pro-prosperity” platform).

And following the furore caused by ex-Tory leadership candidate Andrea Leadsom’s comments aimed at Theresa May about motherhood and childlessness, he should have known better.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.