Owen Smith and Jeremy Corbyn: This shot was taken at the end of the leadership election in 2016, so Mr Smith had a metaphorical knife sharpened for Mr Corbyn even then.

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.

His words

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:

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 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:

He got what he deserved:

Commenters outside the party got the same short shrift. Here’s Vince Cable:

And this is what he got back:

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:

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:


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