Two of British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s former economic advisers have backed his rival Owen Smith for leading the party in the 2020 general election.
David Blanchflower, a former member of the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee, and Simon Wren-Lewis, a professor at the Oxford University, said they do not believe Corbyn can win the next election and the party had a better chance under Smith.
Both of them have now expressed reservations about Corbyn’s leadership with Blanchflower walking away from the advisory committee in June, and Wren-Lewis being a member of the committee until meetings were suspended in June, the Guardian reported.
Blanchflower has decided to publicly back Smith, saying Corbyn was “absolutely, completely unelectable”.
He told the Guardian on Sunday that Corbyn was unable to form a strong opposition when the economy appeared to be “going down very fast” after the vote to leave the European Union in June 23 referendum.
Blanchflower, who is advocating a five per cent cut in VAT, said Smith had been better at consulting businesses and economists in three weeks than Corbyn’s leadership had over the last nine months.
Wren-Lewis said: “What seems totally clear to me is that given recent events a Corbyn-led party cannot win in 2020, or even come close.
Wren-Lewis also acknowledged that he wants Smith to win the leadership contest.
John McDonnell, chairman of Corbyn’s campaign, said Smith must do more to denounce those seeking a split or risk becoming the “disunity candidate”.
“If he (Smith) refuses to denounce those calling for a split, then members will think he is simply trying to scaremonger them to vote for him by his talking up of threats from a minority of MPs supporting his campaign who are plotting to split our party in Tory newspapers,” McDonnell said.
“And it will be hard for anyone to tell how much Smith truly is opposed to a split, and how much he is giving tacit support to those plotters in a hope it helps his campaign.”
Smith’s campaign chief Kate Green rejected the idea that Smith was at risk of contributing to a split.
“The irony of McDonnell offering hollow words on party unity will not be lost on Labour members and supporters,” she said.
Corbyn is considered the strong favourite to win the leadership contest without the need to win over more members. In contrast, Smith is a lesser known name and will be keen to raise his profile as much as possible.