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Owen Smith wins backing of steelworkers' union in Labour leadership contest

Published 05/08/2016

Jeremy Corbyn watches Owen Smith speak during the first Labour Leadership debate at the All Nations Centre, Cardiff
Jeremy Corbyn watches Owen Smith speak during the first Labour Leadership debate at the All Nations Centre, Cardiff

Steelworkers' union Community has nominated Owen Smith in Labour's leadership contest.

General secretary Roy Rickhuss said his members desperately needed a Labour party that speaks to the country as well as them, adding: "At the moment, I fear it does neither."

The announcement follows a string of decisions by unions to support Jeremy Corbyn, including the Communication Workers Union, train drivers' union Aslef, building workers union Ucatt and the TSSA rail union.

Mr Rickhuss said: "Jeremy Corbyn's leadership now presents a significant barrier to a future Labour government. He very plainly cannot lead a party and his continued presence as Labour leader makes our ability to build an election-winning, social movement, the likes of which was saw in the late 90s and early 00s, harder not easier."

Mr Rickhuss said Mr Smith offered a " radical and pragmatic" agenda, adding: "In a short space of time he has laid out detailed plans to make workplaces fairer and more prosperous.

"He has shown a real understanding of what an active industrial strategy should look like. Owen clearly has incredible ambition in his plan for Britain while recognising the fundamental need for Labour to be trusted with the nation's finances.

"Owen's comprehensive policy platform is matched with an energy and enthusiasm that is currently sorely lacking within our party's leadership.

"I hope that other trade unionists will join us in supporting Owen's leadership campaign. We have a responsibility to ensure the political wing of our movement is not left impotent and that our members do not have to endure another generation of Conservative rule."

The two leadership contenders clashed last night in their first head-to-head debate, with Mr Smith saying that Labour was failing to provide a "powerful, credible opposition" to the Conservative government under Jeremy Corbyn.

In an often fiery exchange in Cardiff, Mr Corbyn hit back, blaming Mr Smith and others for undermining party unity when they quit the shadow cabinet in protest at his leadership.

Mr Corbyn won the backing of the party's official youth wing, Young Labour, whose national committee voted by 15-8 to nominate him for re-election.

Young Labour's chairwoman, primary school teacher Caroline Hill, said: "I voted to nominate Jeremy Corbyn because he is the only Labour leader in my lifetime who has a serious plan to fight for young people - a National Education Service will give everyone the chance to get the education they need, massive investment in jobs and social housing, and radical reform of workplace rights so that we can stop the scandal of exploitation and precarious work."

A spokesman for the Jeremy for Labour campaign said: "Under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, hundreds of thousands of people have joined the Labour Party and a large proportion of them have been young. Jeremy Corbyn's 10 pledges to rebuild and transform Britain resonate with a generation facing a future of precarious work, student debts and a lack of housing."

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