barrieBarrie Cunning says the next Labour leader has a huge challenge ahead to make Labour a credible government in waiting, and only Owen Smith can do it.


I write this as I get the 2pm train from London Kings Cross to Edinburgh, and I’m pleased to report that there is an abundant supply of available seats on this service. As we approach Newcastle, I hear a group of people talking about the current Labour leadership election, and it sounds more akin to someone reading the obituary of a formerly great politician who achieved a lot for the country but is now irrelevant and outdated. This is more than just an analogy illustrating the current state of the Labour Party; it’s a prediction of what could happen if the status quo is maintained.

I haven’t spoken to a single Labour party member who enjoys the current leadership election. Most members, myself included, can’t wait for it to be over and for us to get back to holding the Tories to account and representing the people who need a strong Labour voice. But sadly this leadership election is necessary, if we are to become again a credible and effective voice in UK politics.

Over the last twelve months under Jeremy’s leadership we have seen the party become divided and toxic in the eyes of the public: a party that talks about being progressive but acts more regressive. Far be it for me to make a comparison between the current state of the party and the popular BBC satire TV show “The Thick of it”, but there does seem to be an overwhelming similarity between that fictional political world and the reality of what we are in the midst of.

Political parties cannot survive without proper leadership, and this is why I’m backing Owen Smith to become the next leader of the Labour Party. As a former parliamentary candidate I take my hat off to anyone who puts their head above the parapet and stands for election. The Labour Party needs someone who can clearly articulate our principles into policies, to appeal not just to traditional Labour supporters but to the wider electorate, and I firmly believe that person is Owen Smith. Owen is the only candidate in this leadership election who has a bold and radical vision for the country, and fully understands that it can only be achieved by having a progressive Labour Party, acting as a credible opposition and being perceived as an alternative government in waiting.

There have been some ridiculous allegations that at the core of this leadership election is an inherent disdain against a school of thought that claims to uphold socialism, but that is simply not true. For me it’s about leadership, and leadership only. Whoever is announced as the winner on the 24th September has an enormous task ahead of them, and it requires real leadership. The next Labour leader will have to unite the party, ensure they have the support of the Parliamentary Labour Party, work with devolved party leaders and engage with the membership. In my view only Owen Smith can do this.

I urge anyone reading this to vote for Owen Smith in the current Labour leadership election.