by Martin Odoni

Dear Owen,

It is already over. Stand down. You have as much chance of winning the Labour leadership this year as a snowball has of surviving a guided tour of the Earth’s core. You have already lost.

Of course, I had my severe doubts about your chances right from the moment there were whispers that you might make a challenge to become leader; partly because I was only dimly aware of who you are. If I have trouble placing a face to the name when I follow the political scene, what hope did most rank-and-file Labour Party workers have?

Today, I went from doubting your chances, to knowing you have no chance. For today, I was at the Lowry Theatre in Salford Quays, attending the launch event for Jeremy Corbyn’s bid to retain the leadership of the Labour Party. The atmosphere within the Lyric Auditorium was just unbelievable. The sheer weight of feeling in that chamber, duplicated in other cities all over the country, was energised by the weight of an idea that far exceeds the ‘appeal’ of your plastic Public Relations ‘skills’.

You may not even fully understand what I mean by all this, Owen, but that only underlines how far beyond your depth you are swimming. You do not even know what you have chosen to take on, what you have put yourself up against. What you are up against is a movement – a movement that is for an idea, and not just vindictively against an individual. Even with all the dirty attempts by the party’s National Executive Council to force Corbyn supporters off the voting lists, you, Owen, are still going to get pulverised if you continue, because that idea I speak of is already out there amongst the majority in the party, and among many beyond. The genie is out of the bottle, Owen, and it sure will not go back in simply at your say-so.

Your lack of real experience in Parliament is what blinds you to the scale of the task you are facing, while your lack of experience among grass-roots supporters and ordinary people blinds you to how unappealing your leadership appears. You have nothing to offer, nothing. All the speakers at the launch event had more to say in the opening sentences of their speeches than you had in all the speeches you have so far delivered combined. Rebecca Long-Bailey, Sam Wheeler, Yasmin Toor, most particularly Richard Burgon, and others besides; they spoke, every single one of them, with the charisma of sincerity. They believed in what they said, every word, you could sense it when listening to them, and it connected to supporters in a way of which you, Owen, can only dream. And this is the critical point; they are on Corbyn’s side, they are not on yours. You, Owen, keep contradicting yourself in interviews, and you try to compensate for lack of clarity with an obviously fake show of ‘affability’. Corbyn may not be a great orator, but he is at least as good a speaker as you, so you need supporters who will speak up for you, as the other speakers did for Corbyn today. But whom do you have who will fight your corner with the same fire and eloquence as Burgon, Long-Bailey, Wheeler et al?

And then there is Corbyn himself; when he stepped onto the stage to address the crowd in the Lyric, the ovation he got was just ear-splitting. Just across the quay from the Theatre is Old Trafford Football Ground. Even when it is full to its 80,000 capacity, I swear it can get no louder than the ovation about 2,000 gave Jeremy Corbyn today. As he spoke with his usual, relaxed, mild-humoured clarity, and his kindly, engaging sincerity, giving us more substance in a minute than Tony Blair gave us in ten years as Prime Minister, everyone in the room was with him, applauding and chanting his name. The ovation he got when he finished speaking lasted for minutes on end. His charisma may not be the same type as the traditional, aloof, ‘Alpha-male’ figure of convention, but he still has a charisma that you lack.

Do you not believe that? Well, I went to a Momentum meeting in Liverpool just two days ago. There were hundreds crammed into a hotel conference room with poor air conditioning on a humid evening, but no one was sapped or stifled by it. It had a similar vibrant atmosphere of drive and commitment. And everyone there was well aware that Corbyn would not even be able to attend. Think about that; they showed up in their hundreds to show their support for Corbyn even when he was not going to be there! For you and your allies to keep suggesting that this man is ‘unelectable’ when he is the only politician in the country to rally hundreds of thousands to his banner over the last year is frankly doublethink.

Meanwhile, Owen, you have nothing with which to counter any of this. You have no vision, no inspiration, no experience, nobody’s trust. You are unable to mobilise support in anything like the same numbers, or with even a fraction of the drive, passion and commitment, that your already-elected leader can.  The Parliamentary Party in the main will support you, but not because they really want you to be leader, but because they fear what Corbyn stands for. Your support is built on a negative. Even events you attend in person have tiny numbers of supporters showing up, and most of them looking half-comatose as they try to remember to hold up the signs saying, “Owen Smith 4 Labour Leader“.

There is not the slightest chance of that sort of half-hearted semi-interest from followers of Jeremy Corbyn.

Do you know why? Because all you are offering your party, in place of this man of the people, is another PR man, which to them is effectively nothing. It is nothing to them, because they have endured nearly a quarter-of-a-century of ‘New Labour’ PR and now know how to recognise it straight away. They have experience of how much your brand of PR promises them at first, and how little it delivers in the long run. They are no longer willing to indulge it. You as leader would simply be another Tony Blair, and that is not the good news you think it is; by-and-large, people no longer like Blair, they have come to recognise him as the violent, deceitful plutocrat he undoubtedly is, and some are even ashamed they ever voted for him. You will not win elections by emulating him. But that is what you would have to do, because when all is said and done, you have no gift for doing anything different.

What they want is something they have lacked for a generation, and that is someone to represent them, not just someone to represent the banks in a way that allows the little people a few extra crumbs.

All of this means that you are not a true ‘challenger’, Owen, you are merely a roleplayer. Your only role is forcing your party to waste precious time and resources re-doing a process that was completed and finalised without any ambiguity less than a year ago. This pointless ‘coup‘ has already squandered a priceless opportunity to attack the Conservative Party over the ‘Brexit’ fiasco, which had left their own party in turmoil for weeks, but from which they have now been allowed to regroup with little harm done to them. By engaging in this ridiculous leadership challenge, you are simply handing the Tories more freedom from effective opposition.

No one will thank you for that, except the Tories themselves, and they are supposed to be your enemies.

Give up, Owen. You and your supporters in the PLP are trying to fight the tide itself. You are all in denial of the reality that the ‘New Labour’ experiment had fully run its course at least eight years ago, and is now as obsolete as the party model of the 1970’s – which no, Corbyn is not trying to restore.

So why not let your party cut its losses and at least get back some good will from the grass-roots you will still need to rely on in future? You have lost anyway.

Yours sincerely
Martin Odoni