Owen Smith: Labour might have won the election under my leadership
Owen Smith has hinted that Labour might have won last month’s election if he had been leader rather than Jeremy Corbyn.
Mr Smith has returned to Labour’s frontbench as Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary in the aftermath of the 8 June vote, when Labour won 40% of votes and took 30 more seats than in 2015.
Although the Conservatives were denied an overall majority, Labour remains well adrift of the Tories in how many MPs it has.
Mr Smith, who was comprehensively beaten by Mr Corbyn in a leadership contest last summer, was asked by Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday whether he would have done as well if he was Labour leader.
The Pontypridd MP replied: “I don’t know. I hope so. I hope I might have even got us to win – but I can’t know that, Sophy.”
He also stressed that Mr Corbyn’s leadership was not under threat.
“I think Jeremy has clearly galvanised young people in this country, we’ve seen that not just in the election but since,” Mr Smith added.
“I met people in the election who hadn’t voted ever – certainly people who hadn’t voted for a long while – who felt that Jeremy was speaking to and for them and that Labour was speaking to and for them. I don’t think any of us can argue with that and therefore I think he’s earned the right to try and get Labour into power and earned the right to be our next prime minister.”
Mr Smith said that he was “clearly wrong” about Mr Corbyn’s electoral appeal.
“I wasn’t anticipating that and Jeremy in that regard absolutely proved me wrong and proved many people wrong and we are now in with a chance of winning the election,” he added.
One of the key divides in last summer’s leadership contest was over the question of EU membership.
Mr Smith had advocated a second referendum and membership of the single market.
In a Commons vote on Thursday, he did not vote in favour of Chuka Umunna’s call for a so-called “soft Brexit”.
While he said he had not changed his view on the EU, Mr Smith explained that he felt Shadow Cabinet collective responsibility overruled his objections.
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