If anybody thinks Owen Smith was making a point of principle, by publishing the article that got him sacked just as Labour launched its local election campaign, you’d better think again.
He was trying to provoke the Labour leadership.
Labour needs to do more than just back a soft Brexit or guarantee a soft border in Ireland. Given that it is increasingly obvious that the promises the Brexiters made to the voters – especially, but not only, their pledge of an additional £350m a week for the NHS – are never going to be honoured, we have the right to keep asking if Brexit remains the right choice for the country. And to ask, too, that the country has a vote on whether to accept the terms, and true costs of that choice, once they are clear. That is how Labour can properly serve our democracy and the interests of our people.
– run against Labour policy, which is to accept the decision made in the EU referendum.
He knew this, but Mr Smith – who, let’s not forget, ran for the Labour leadership against Mr Corbyn in the so-called ‘Chicken Coup’ campaign of 2016 – published his article anyway. Perhaps he thought Mr Corbyn would be weak, and would fail to act decisively. He thought wrong:
The shadow Northern Ireland secretary, Owen Smith, was sacked by Jeremy Corbyn on Friday after breaking with Labour policy to call for a referendum on the final Brexit deal.
Corbyn is believed to have taken the decision on the basis that Smith had not been a team player, and had repeatedly breached shadow cabinet collective responsibility on Brexit, including by calling for Britain to remain in the single market.
But the sacking, which was announced on Friday evening, is likely to inflame tensions in the parliamentary Labour party over Brexit.
Look how Mr Smith sought to score points against Mr Corbyn by skewing his description of what happened:
Unfortunately for Mr Smith, thinking people weren’t accepting it:
— Christine Hudson (@ChristineHud) March 23, 2018
Resigning on a point of principle is fine. Many of my political heroes & heroines have done so. But don’t expect to stay in a shadow cabinet where collective responsibility is a clear & established expectation, when you’ve broken it. Have to say, a bit dignity wouldn’t go amiss.
— Ben Sellers (@MrBenSellers) March 24, 2018
Labour can work as a broad church.
Problem is, if you're an MP who's constantly writing antagonistic comments on twitter, leaking to the press & plotting against the leadership you are effectively pissing in the font, stealing the lead off the roof & wedgieing the vicar.
— Matt Thomas #GrassrootsVoice (@Trickyjabs) March 24, 2018
And the division continues. When are you going to get behind the leadership and stick it to the Tories? People are dying due to austerity. When do you stick up about that. You abstained on the work and welfare bill disabled people are paying the price.
— paula peters (@paulapeters2) March 24, 2018
Well you’re not towing the party line so he was right to sack you.
Why can’t you accept what the British public have voted for in a democratic election?
— Amjid Khan (@totalkharnage) March 23, 2018
The state of this: Smith the obscure Blairite, only blinked into the daylight because he was offered a place in the Shadow Cabinet, decides to attempt the undermine our local election campaign rather than do a bit of hard work.#FinalFail https://t.co/ZKajIV01Yz
— Cllr John Edwards (@JohnEdwards33) March 24, 2018
Owen Smith's message was opposite to what the local election campaign was launched on – his article about a second referendum brought confusion to voters, he should go!https://t.co/0V4bvO3m3F
— Rabih Chaaban (@ChaabanRabih) March 24, 2018
Owen Smith was not sacked from the Shadow Cabinet because he is a Remainer. Owen Smith was sacked because he clearly breached the code of collective responsibility.
Chris Williamson who is a Corbynite also broke the code of Collective Responsibility and was also duly sacked.
— David Clarke 🚩 (🏆x19/🏆x6) (@david_clarke91) March 23, 2018
I’m a Labour member and you don’t speak for me. I voted remain, but a democratic vote took place and people voted to leave. It’s time to stop grandstanding, roll up your sleeves and make sure we get a decent deal.
— Sarah Durston (@NovembersSpawn) March 23, 2018
As a shadow cabinet minister, Owen Smith has to support party policy. Whether you agree with a second referendum or not, Corbyn has shown strong leadership. And by the way, it is the National Policy Forum which ultimately decides Labour policy, not Corbyn.
— Anita🌹 (@a_nitak) March 23, 2018
Just in case Mr Smith thought he could rely on his claim to have the support of the majority of Labour members, it’s as well to point out that he has regularly voted against the will of the party in the past:
And just for the record, speaking of things Smith 'fundamentally disagrees' with as far as Labour goes, here's some of his voting record. Seems Labour 'doing well' isn't a good thing hence the timing of his latest stunt:https://t.co/ncKTGNpriU
— TracieWaylingArtASMR (@traciewayling) March 24, 2018
Voted against greater restrictions on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to extract shale gas in National Parks, the Broads, areas of outstanding natural beauty, World Heritage sites, *and near points where water is abstracted for domestic and food production purposes.*
— TracieWaylingArtASMR (@traciewayling) March 24, 2018
And his supporters have been ridiculed for their claims. Here’s Peter Hain, who has said perfectly reasonable things in the past but now seems to have taken leave of his senses:
This is a terrible Stalinist purge @OwenSmith_MP has been doing a terrific job on Northern Ireland he’s ideal for the role with his experience expertise and considerable ability. Widely respected. In a Shadow Cabinet with few big hitters he was definitely one https://t.co/hq5mpdbsOx
— Peter Hain (@PeterHain) March 23, 2018
He got what he deserved:
State of this. Did Mr Hain call the sacking of Chris Williamson a "Stalinist purge"? The only place Owen is a big hit is in the sales office at Walls. https://t.co/yZ5Z9JXgNF
— Rachael Swindon (@Rachael_Swindon) March 23, 2018
Commenters outside the party got the same short shrift. Here’s Vince Cable:
Shame to see @OwenSmith_MP sacked for simply repeating the view of the majority of Labour members and, I suspect, MPs
— Vince Cable (@vincecable) March 23, 2018
And this is what he got back:
The man who thought increasing fees and privatising the Royal Mail was good. Sorry Vince, those days are gone. And to create something better means collective responsibility in the shadow cabinet. https://t.co/dtFzTCBwGb
— Aaron Bastani (@AaronBastani) March 24, 2018
The fact is that Jeremy Corbyn does not need to even try to placate disgruntled right-wingers like Owen Smith. If they step out of line, he can take whatever action he deems necessary to neutralise the threat to his authority:
Owen Smith is a liability and Jeremy Corbyn was right to sack him.
Today has sent a clear message to Blairites:
— Socialist Voice (@SocialistVoice) March 23, 2018
Can't make up my mind whether the anti-Corbyn Labour MPs are just weasely for their incessant sniping at their own leadership or just too stupid to never learn that this ends badly for them each time.
— Stephen Wadsworth (@StephenWadswor2) March 23, 2018
If you ask Labour members and the British public they are not bothered about Owen Smith however they are concerned about the Tory austerity cuts that will hit them hard.
— Nadeem Ahmed (@Muqadaam) March 24, 2018
If there is a lesson to be learned, it is summed up in this tweet by Laura Pidcock: Collective responsibility – collective action – holds Labour together. Loose cannons like Mr Smith threaten to tear the party apart, making it easy prey for others. That’s why he had to go:
Our movement is broad and depends on a united purpose. And despite many different views, we understand the concept of collective responsibility. That is because we don’t just represent ourselves, but a party, a people and a movement. Our strength lies in our unity. pic.twitter.com/8AIRLt0Spf
— Laura Pidcock (@LauraPidcock) March 24, 2018
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