If you’re a Labour voter or potential Labour voter, what do you look for in the leader of the Labour Party?
You look for core Labour principles and values. The ability to inspire and motivate. Authenticity, honesty, passion and energy. Charisma and strong communication.
Someone who can unite rather than divide.
Someone who can deliver as well as debate.
And someone who can win, not just whinge.
That person is Owen Smith.
He brings experience and knowledge from outside politics and from around the UK, not just the world surrounding Westminster; from his upbringing in South Wales, his time at University (a fluent French speaker – handy for those Brexit discussions), from jobs in the media and international business. And very usefully, working as part of a successful team on the Northern Ireland peace process, with experience of bringing people with polar opposite views and a background of hostility (and worse) together, in agreement, about the future of the people of Northern Ireland.
I know from my own career that successful leadership, whether in politics, business or elsewhere, is about building a strong team. And to do that, you have to listen, draw on the best talent, innovation and skills to produce strong, practical policy and solutions that you know you can deliver. And you need to be able to compromise, to influence, persuade and achieve the outcomes that are best for the organisation and for the people who depend on it.
Teamwork is collective. The Labour and Trade Union movement is a collective. Contrary to the impression the echo chamber of social media is giving, no single person has a monopoly on our Labour values. Leadership is about taking responsibility, giving direction and making sure Labour values are reflected in powerful policies that address the real needs and concerns of the people of our country.
Owen’s supporters come from across the Labour and Trade Union movement and beyond. Strong women feature prominently, as do young members, LGBT members, BME members and elected representatives at every level of our democracy. Real activists. Who have campaigned for Labour in all weathers and who know what counts to voters on the doorstep, in the Councillors’ surgeries, in the shopping centres, community centres, schools – and in the pub.
That’s because throughout his time in the Labour Party, Owen has been a team player. He’s grafted, campaigning up and down the country at every type of election and referendum, spending hours, days and weeks on campaign trails supporting Labour candidates. In Wales, Scotland, London and across England. He listens; to candidates, activists, but most importantly, to voters. He listens, engages, influences, persuades and he convinces people by the power and passion of his sincerity.
In the 2015 general election he campaigned in every single one of our forty constituencies in Wales in one week. He helped every Labour candidate, whether they were in a winnable seat or not, because he understands the importance of strong teamwork. He leads by example. He takes responsibility. He would never expect a colleague to do something he wasn’t prepared to do himself. He fronts up.
You don’t get to put into practice the Labour values and policies that will help our communities across the country, without winning.
So I don’t understand those in our party who say that winning isn’t the priority. This is not a game. It isn’t the Olympics. It’s not just about taking part. It’s about building a winning Labour Party that gives our divided country the government it so desperately needs.
We are 21 per cent behind in the polls and heading for oblivion if a snap general election is called. This, when the Tories are deeply divided and their plan for Britain consists of a blank sheet of paper, is unforgivable. We cannot stand by and let this happen. We cannot just shrug our shoulders.
So I urge Labour members and supporters to join me in putting an X next to Owen Smith’s name on their ballot papers and to give Labour and the country, a positive, progressive plan packed with policies to bring purpose, fairness and prosperity for the many, not just the few.