I arrived at London Fields, where the event was being held, expecting to see it jam-packed with enthused Owen Smith fans. Instead, there were about two dozen pasty young Labourites like me, patiently waiting for Owen’s arrival. A woman working for Owen’s campaign greeted me, and offered me a small beer and a burger.
Sadly, the barbecue had made no allowances for vegetarian Owen Smith fans, presumably as a way of showing that Owen Smith is not a smelly falafel-eating hippy like his opponent, so I was forced to go without. I gladly accepted the beer though, and chugged down a 2.6% bottle of lager. It struck me that literally anyone offering free beer and burgers in East London could attract two dozen people, and I have a sneaking suspicion that if there had been a similar event on Facebook with the only difference being no mention of Owen Smith, more people would have turned up.
Before Owen arrived, I got talking to some of the other Owen Smith fans. At least, I assumed they were going to be Owen Smith fans, but as we got discussing things, I realised that several of them were Momentum supporters who had only come along to see how much of a threat Owen posed. Perhaps more depressing was the fact that even among the Smithites, nobody seemed to think Owen was especially good. One person admitted that they had not heard of Owen Smith until last week, but were convinced that anyone other than Corbyn could do a better job of being Labour leader. I was told that, of the 100,000 London Labour Members, only two regularly showed up to phone-bank for Owen.
At about half past one, Owen arrived at his rally. He gave a short speech, before being interrupted by a local man who was enjoying a can of super-strength cider. ‘You’ve got no passion, mate’, shouted the man. ‘I’ve got plenty of passion!’, replied Owen. After the main speech was done, Owen talked to individual Young Labour members about the Conservative plans to bring back grammar schools and his plan for how he could win an election in 2020. I eavesdropped on his conversations, and realised that he made
the same joke about the burgers being dodgy to everyone he talked to.
After his brief chat with supporters, Owen had to shoot off. When he left, I stuck around to speak to other Young Labour Members. The general consensus was that the cider-drinking local had been right, Owen did lack passion. Others expressed concern about Owen’s plan to ignore the EU Referendum result, fearing it would put off voters in Labour’s northern heartlands. Many made it clear that Owen had not been their first choice, and other names were brought up as alternatives: Chuka Umunna and Lisa Nandy were the two most frequent. Saddened by the fact that Owen Smith had failed to galvanise the young Labour moderates, I left the barbecue with no vegetarian food, and bought some chips.