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1,000 Labour councillors sign letter backing Owen Smith in leadership contest

Published 19/08/2016

Leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn.
Leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn.

Owen Smith's Labour leadership campaign has received a significant boost after 1,000 of the party's councillors signed a letter supporting him.

The Pontypridd MP is locked in a fierce battle for the Labour top job with current leader Jeremy Corbyn.

But the letter of support, signed by councillors from across the UK, suggests it is only Mr Smith who is capable of leading the party into government.

The letter comes just days after Mr Corbyn was shown to have won the overwhelming backing of constituency Labour parties (CLPs).

Mr Corbyn secured nominations from 285 CLPs while Mr Smith got 53.

The letter, posted in full on the Labour List website, calls on party members to back Mr Smith because "this is the only path forward to a Labour government".

It praises the former shadow work and pensions secretary for displaying the "tenacity and skill to advance the cause of working people" but goes even further and suggests he is the only person capable of unifying the party.

It states: "There are militants in both wings of our party who are determined to carry out a civil war against each other, whether it harms working people or not.

"We have intimidation and bullying in Constituency Labour Parties up and down the country.

"We have those who seem to prefer perpetual division to the job of winning power for the good of those we represent.

"We need a unifying leader who is principled and competent."

The letter, originally published at the end of July when it had received 500 signatures, was organised by Michael Payne, a Nottinghamshire councillor, and Tim Roca, a councillor in Westminster.

The boost for Mr Smith's campaign comes after he and Mr Corbyn clashed during the latest Labour leadership debate.

Mr Corbyn conceded on Thursday evening at an event in Birmingham that the party will have to win over people who have been "tempted to vote Tory" to have a chance of forming a Labour government.

But Mr Smith went much further, insisting Labour will have to win over two million voters who backed the Conservatives in 2015 in order to secure power.

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