Tyrone O’Sullivan believes stalking horse Smith is ‘being used’
ONE of Wales’s most revered miners and socialists has snubbed fellow countryman Owen Smith to campaign for Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership contest.
Tyrone O’Sullivan, an influential figure in the National Union of Mineworkers during the 1984-85 strike who shot to national prominence when he led a workers’ buyout of Tower Colliery, says he will repay the “real comradeship” received from Mr Corbyn during and after the famous dispute.
His endorsement for the Labour leader is a blow to Mr Smith, who has made his connection with the miners’ strike part of his campaign to appeal to Mr Corbyn’s left-wing supporters.
He said Mr Smith is a “competent MP” but believes he has been “used” by rebel MPs who would never back him for the leadership under different circumstances.
The 70-year-old, who remains chairman of the colliery, told the Star in an interview that it was a “dream come true” when Mr Corbyn was elected leader last summer.
The pair’s camaraderie goes back to the miners’ strike when they appeared on platforms together at events to raise cash for the strike fund in London.
Mr O’Sullivan recalled: “They were collecting £3,000 a week for us in Islington during the strike. It was incredible.
“We went back to Islington on the fifth and the 10th anniversary of the miners’ strike.
“And when we were buying Tower, Jeremy wrote to me and said what a marvellous way to go forward.
“I’ve always been a socialist. So when Jeremy became leader it was kind of a dream come true for me.
“In my later years in life, having suffered first under Kinnock and being sold out, to then have the Blair years, we now have hope.”
Mr Smith has spoken of the miners’ strike as his “political awakening” and made public a photo of him marching with miners at the time.
The Pontypridd MP has presented himself as a “radical and credible” alternative to Mr Corbyn. But Mr O’Sullivan said: “What I can’t understand is how he can let himself be used as a stalking horse — a person of his intelligence.
“If Jeremy dropped dead tomorrow he (Smith) wouldn’t be in the top 10 that the present Labour MPs would put forward to lead the party. Why can’t he see that?”
He added: “He’s the MP for Pontypridd, an area where workers have struggled for 30 years and that MP then starts to rebel against socialism — probably the best socialism we’ve had in a lifetime.
“To take on the man who’s creating that, I just don’t understand it. I thought he had more to him than that. But some people just want glory, don’t they.”
“I believe one day Owen could have a serious position in the Labour Party. I don’t think he’ll ever be leader.”
Research published by Cardiff University last month found Mr Corbyn was both better known and had higher support than Mr Smith in Wales.
Anecdotal evidence also suggests the Labour leader could beat Mr Smith in his own backyard in the contest, according to Mr O’Sullivan, who lives near Swansea.
He said: “It’s so positive for Jeremy. My two daughters, who have voted Green most of their lives, 35 and 39: as soon as Jeremy was elected, they joined the Labour Party.
“People have passed me in the street and said: ‘Mr O’Sullivan, I know you’re in the Labour Party. Isn’t it wonderful about Jeremy, I’ve joined the Labour Party.’
“The people who support Jeremy are doing it for change. For once in their life, they can trust someone in politics.”