There are currently two leadership election campaigns being ran by major British political parties. As leftwingers, the co-writers of this blog initially saw wins for Labour’s Owen Smith and UKIP’s Steven Woolfe as the worst possible scenario for the left.
Large proportions of the working class areas which voted to Leave in the June referendum were in safe Labour seats where UKIP have been growing in strength. The working class Leave vote was, in our experience as Remain campaigners, largely an anti-establishment vote. Phrases like ‘something has to change’ came up fairly often. Smith’s suggestion of a second referendum once the terms of Brexit have been made clear (as opposed to the best of all worlds mirage which was offered in June) is sensible. But the prospect of a well-off former drug company executive potentially trying to reverse a working-class rebellion against the establishment would be a dangerous one. To make this work, Smith would need to draw on reserves of charisma, persuasion and clarity of communication that he simply doesn’t have.
Labour’s ability to present themselves as being the party of the working class would be even tougher were UKIP to be led by the highly-regarded working class MEP and barrister Steven Woolfe, born and raised in Manchester’s Moss Side.
However, despite Woolfe being favourite to win, his application was submitted to the party 17 minutes after the deadline closed, leading to UKIP’s National Executive Committee voting to exclude him from the contest. So why did the man many see as Nigel Farage’s most natural successor fall at the first hurdle?