Why on earth did Owen Smith say that he might consider re-joining not just the European Union but also the euro and Schengen? Some of the Labour leadership contender’s colleagues have been asking the ‘why on earth’ question a fair bit this summer, not least when he made the interesting decision to out-Corbyn Corbyn on the small matter of Islamic State.
But today the Pontypridd MP told Andrew Marr that if certain conditions, such as a further recession, privatisation of the NHS and so on, were met, ‘I think the sensible and responsible thing for a Labour government to do is to say we’re better off in the European Union’. Marr then asked whether this meant joining the euro and Schengen for the first time:
‘Potentially, but again we’re getting into hypotheticals built on hypotheticals. I think the key thing is they’ve not said definitively, there was a couple of weeks ago they were briefing it might be 2019 before we trigger Article 50.’
This seems like a daft thing to say given the British public sent a message about their thoughts not just on the European Union but also on immigration controls by voting for Brexit. But the reason Smith made these comments is that he’s not thinking of the British public, but a group that seems rather unrepresentative of the British public in its views: the Labour membership. In order to win the Labour membership over, comments that would seem daft in the wider political climate are important - or so Smith thinks.
Smith told Marr he believed he had a 10/10 chance of winning, but his colleagues don’t agree (though he is doing better amongst the London membership than you might expect). But the reason there is not more fury with the candidate to replace Jeremy Corbyn is that many Labour MPs just don’t think the membership can be reasoned with by anyone at the moment, even by someone who is offering Corbynesque policies and seemingly politically daft ideas in the way that Owen Smith is.