Wales politics

Labour leadership result to set tone for days to come

Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith Image copyright PA/Getty
Image caption Jeremy Corbyn faced a challenge to his leadership from Pontypridd MP Owen Smith

It has, the challenger admits, been a long, bitter and bruising contest. And one few expect Owen Smith to win.

Jeremy Corbyn is the odds-on favourite to defeat the Pontypridd MP and be re-elected Labour leader on Saturday, possibly with a majority that could see him politically strengthened rather than weakened by the contest.

The result will be declared on the eve of the party conference in Liverpool and will set the tone for the days that follow.

Jeremy Corbyn has promised to "wipe the slate clean" and welcome back those MPs who resigned from shadow posts in protest at his leadership.

Some, but not Owen Smith, will return. But for a large number there are conditions attached: they think allowing MPs to choose the shadow cabinet is the olive branch Mr Corbyn should be accepting (he's not keen on the idea).

One MP said it was important to go back to the origins of the contest and a vote of no confidence prompted by complaints that he wouldn't work effectively to create a Labour team.

"The ball is in Jeremy's court," he said. "It depends on how Jeremy responds to the result."

Rhondda MP Chris Bryant says that whoever wins (he's a Smith supporter) he won't go back, believing he can do more for his party and constituents from the backbenches.

In Wales, Labour have the consolation of remaining in power although without a majority. The conference is likely to endorse changes to party rules that will give the Welsh party more freedom to run its own affairs - and a voting seat on the UK party's national executive committee.

Image caption Paul Flynn returned to the front benches after mass resignations from the shadow cabinet

First Minister Carwyn Jones - who leads the only Labour government in the UK - speaks on Sunday. Shadow Welsh Secretary Paul Flynn, who doubles up as shadow Commons leader, makes his first conference speech as a shadow cabinet member at the age of 81. Expect unity pleas from those who remain in Mr Corbyn's top team.

As the polls closed, Owen Smith said he would not serve in a Corbyn shadow cabinet but would continue to raise his ideas "from the backbenches". If that sounded like a concession, it was swiftly denied by the Smith team.

One Smith-supporting MP said his campaign, although not without its gaffes, had revealed the MP's "energy, resilience and dedication".

He has said consistently that a Corbyn victory would mean "Groundhog Day" with the party remaining divided and behind in the polls. If Groundhog Day does occur, he could at least console himself with the traditional "Welsh night" reception on the conference fringe.

But with the party leader due to attend what Paul Flynn once described as "a sing-song, a booze-up and a raffle", a defeated Mr Smith could be forgiven for giving this year's Welsh night a miss.

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