Owen Smith says he has not spoken to Corbyn since the leadership election result 12 days ago [Image: Peter Nicholls/Reuters].

Owen Smith says he has not spoken to Corbyn since the leadership election result [Image: Peter Nicholls/Reuters].

Of course Owen Smith should stay on the backbenches; now should be a time of reflection on the vast number of howlers that fell from his lips during his failed leadership campaign.

What? You mean that’s not the reason? He’s staying away because he doesn’t think Corbyn can win?

Well, what about all this talk about it being “time for us to unite and get back to fighting the Tories”? Is that just more claptrap? Yes, I think it is.

It is a shame, though. When he actually stops to think about what he’s saying, he can make some good points. His words on the difference between Theresa May’s characterisation of Labour as a “nasty party” and the fact of the Conservative Party’s behaviour are right on the button: “There’s a big difference between a lot of nasty debate within the Labour party and where the Tories have been for the last six years … which is being nasty to the British public – introducing austerity, cutting back on the livelihoods of working people.”

Shall we just skate over the fact that he supported austerity when Labour was (almost) all for it? No. Let’s not. That’s Mr Smith’s problem – he goes anywhere the wind blows.

His belief that “Labour needs to be a centre-left party” ignores the fact that a centre-left party is what Labour is. Jeremy Corbyn has dragged it back there after New Labour triangulation around Conservative policy moved the focus of British politics dangerously to the right.

The fascistic tone of the Conservative Party Conference this year shows how far the country has travelled in the wrong direction. But there are already signs that Mr Corbyn’s policies are dragging the Conservatives back to the centre, such as Philip Hammond’s decision to ditch Tory economic policy and latch onto some of the ideas put forward by Labour.

The verdict: Owen Smith is right to stay out of frontline politics – but for the wrong reasons. He has some growing-up to do.

The defeated Labour leadership challenger, Owen Smith, has ruled out returning to the shadow cabinet as Jeremy Corbyn continues work on reshuffling his frontbench.

Smith, who attracted just over 38% of the vote in this summer’s contest, said he had not talked to Corbyn since the result was announced 12 days ago at the Labour conference.

Speaking to the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme in his first interview since the result, Smith said: “Given what I’ve said about where we have gone with Jeremy and how we are not making the inroads into the Tories and into the public popularity that we need to in order to form a Labour government, then I can’t serve alongside him.”

Corbyn is preparing to reshuffle his shadow cabinet in a task made all the more challenging by the number of senior figures in the party who have said they will not serve under him.

Source: Owen Smith rules out return to shadow cabinet | Politics | The Guardian

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