This is our truth, tell us yours
It’s more than two decades now since the Conservative Party publicly labelled themselves as cowards by refusing to confront Margaret Thatcher until a stalking horse had been used to flush her out. The stalking horse was Sir Anthony Meyer, a genteel libertine with impeccably right wing pro European views and a fascinating back story as war veteran, diplomat and campaigner for Europe.
From a distance no-one came out of the Thatcher stalking horse episode well except Meyer and his wife, who handled the ad hominem attacks and the ‘revelations’ about Sir Anthony’s private life with great aplomb in public, irrespective of how she might have felt in private.
It took another year after Sir Anthony’s challenge to Thatcher for a Conservative with a chance of winning to stand against her. It left a deep and lasting perception of the Conservatives as a party where no-one was prepared to put their head above the parapet, a party where the ability to manouvre out of sight was more prized than openness and honesty.
Similarly Owen Smith has out-manouvred Angela Eagle to become the challenger to Jeremy Corbyn. To be fair, there is nothing cultured or heroic about Eagle; a time served Blairite with all the depth of a sheet of A4 paper, her campaign, asserting that she should be Labour leader because she was a northern woman, as if the Labour leadership was a casting call for the next series of Happy Valley, was risible. If she has any political foundations, any deep ideological commitment, it has been well concealed in pursuit of her career, but none of these criticisms disguise the fact that Owen Smith wasn’t willing to be the first to show his hand against Corbyn.
If political assasination is the game, better to be an honest Brutus than Cassius; Owen Smith may find that some ofthe briefing against him now going on arises from the fact that he wouldn’t show his hand until he was sure the race was on. That briefing, aligned to the racism that undermined Neil Kinnock, the sneering references to boyos and the Taffia, to dulcet tones and a locquacious wizardry with words, may mean Smith is wounded before the campaign starts.