Owen Smith MP: Another stalking horse? [Image: Rex Shutterstock.]

Owen Smith MP: Another stalking horse? [Image: Rex Shutterstock.]

Was it something we said?

Hours after we were all told that Angela Eagle would announce her candidacy for the Labour leadership, it seems she is withdrawing in favour of Welsh nonentity Owen Smith.

It seems unlikely that more than two names will appear on the ballot paper – the Labour MPs who oppose Corbyn are well aware that he has a huge following among the membership and won’t want to split the proportion of the vote available to them.

The Twitterati have bestowed the name #ChickenCoup on the plotters, because most of them are terrified their Constituency parties (who nominated them for election and 95 per cent of whom support Jeremy Corbyn) will find out they voted against him in the ‘no confidence’ vote on Monday, and because they are finding it extremely hard to field a candidate brave enough to tackle Mr Corbyn and the overwhelming support he has among the electorate.

Ms Eagle’s candidacy was met with a chorus of disapproval on the social media, where she was pilloried for ignoring the wishes of her Constituency Labour Party, Wallasey, whose secretary had written to instruct her to support Corbyn to the hilt. That kind of betrayal will have consequences and Ms Eagle may find it hard to be nominated as Wallasey’s candidate, let alone get elected without the help of the members she scorned.

Now we are told that Owen Smith has stepped up and gained the necessary 51 signatures to get onto the ballot paper. The former Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary (until he quit with the others earlier this week) has tried to do a good job in that role – but This Writer fears that he may not have put his all into it. Bear in mind that I have a history with this man, over an apparent reluctance to upset the right-wing press.

Mr Smith is one of the apparently endless line of Labour MPs who don’t seem ever to have had a proper job; he was a radio producer for 10 years before becoming a spad for Labour MP Paul Murphy.

He doesn’t seem to have much respect for democracy. When Jeremy Corbyn was exploring the possibility of consulting the wider Labour membership over whether to end support for the Trident nuclear programme, Mr Smith said he would consider quitting the Shadow Cabinet if that was the outcome.

He doesn’t have much experience either, having been an MP for only slightly longer than six years. But on the bright side, this means he didn’t vote in favour of the Iraq War (because he wasn’t an MP at the time). And in his favour, he didn’t vote for the Syrian air strikes, either.

If anybody knows whether Pontypridd CLP supports Corbyn, please contact This Blog, so we can clear up that grey area too.

In summary, Owen Smith doesn’t have the experience or the backbone to be a strong Labour leader, and it seems unlikely he would respect the wishes of the wider Labour membership. Another stalking horse?

But then, as I write this, it is only 1.30am.

Who knows who will actually step up to the starting line at 3pm?

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