Labour rival admits he wasn’t ready to challenge Corbyn
by Luke James
OWEN SMITH began laying the ground for a likely defeat in the Labour leadership election yesterday after claiming he did not want to challenge Jeremy Corbyn.
Angela Eagle triggered the contest before the Pontypridd MP elbowed her out of the way to clear the path for a head-to-head with Mr Corbyn.
But he is expected to suffer a heavy defeat when the results are announced at Labour conference on Saturday and got his excuses in early during an interview with the Guardian.
He said: “I wasn’t in favour of there being a challenge.
“But once a challenge had been made then I felt I needed to stand because I felt that I had something to say about the future of the Labour Party, and a lot of other people in the PLP felt that about me, which is why they asked me to stand.”
Asked whether he would have liked Mr Corbyn to be given longer as leader, he added: “Yes, is the honest answer.”
Labour MSP Neil Findlay, who has led Mr Corbyn’s campaign in Scotland, said the timing of the admission — on the eve of close of polls — was “rather strange.”
He said it highlighted how Mr Smith had been “appallingly advised” by MPs who urged him to challenge Mr Corbyn but didn’t support him during the campaign.
Mr Findlay told the Star: “All through this contest I have felt that Owen has been badly advised by colleagues who I don’t believe had his or the party’s best interests at heart.
“The people who have teed him up for this have disappeared into the sunset and left him hanging there.”
Meanwhile Mr Corbyn’s re-election campaign surges ahead with a final rally in east London tonight, with shadow chancellor John McDonnell, shadow health secretary Diane Abbott and former NUT general secretary Christine Blower.
The two factions of the party could be set to clash at Labour’s national executive earlier today over plans to give MPs the power to elect the shadow cabinet.
Mr Corbyn’s supporters will argue for an amendment which would see a third of posts elected by MPs, a third by the leader and a third by members.
“I think there has to be a widening of the franchise,” Mr Corbyn told Radio 4’s Today programme.