What do the Labour leadership candidate’s policy proposals tell us?by John McTernan / July 29, 2016 / Leave a comment
What is Smithism? This is not an idle question. The relentless onslaught of policy from Owen Smith in his campaign for the Labour leadership is worth reflecting on. It is not simply that it is in stark contrast to nearly a year of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. A year in which we have become used to jeremiads against the things which are wrong with the country—but with nothing more practical as a conclusion than an assertion that “it must change.” Nor that it feels very different from last year’s leadership election—can anyone remember a single policy promoted by any of Corbyn’s opponents? I certainly can’t.
The fact is that it feels as though we have travelled back in time to a previous era—the moment in the 1890s/1900s when the modern Labour Party was being formed. That was a time of speeches and pamphleteering—a battle of ideas that to this day define the form, the values and the ideology of Labour. In those days, Smith would have published his policies as a pamphlet or as a series of essays in a newspaper. Today they come in the form of a sheet of paper shared rapidly on social media. The contribution is similar however—intellectual and ideological. And it is entirely appropriate—this is a battle between two competing strands of left-wing thinking. At the turn of the last century it was syndicalism that opposed a parliamentary approach, now the alternative is labelled a “social movement.”