I nearly called him Cohen Smith to highlight the failed attempt to paint Corbyn as an anti-Semite, says Sacha Baron-Cohen, the comic genius behind Ali G and Borat, “but I thought it might give it away.”
Sat in a plush Rochdale hotel suite I am stunned by the revelation.
Until today I, like many others, had been convinced that Owen Smith was real. Even now I have to remind myself each time he puts those glasses on that I have been taken in.
“It’s my greatest work yet though I admit it’s my most subtle work too,” says Baron-Cohen, destroying the illusion again by removing the spectacles, “but the clues where there.
“There was the bit where I said that Jeremy Corbyn was the cause of misogyny in the party and then told Leanne Wood from Plaid Cymru that she was only getting coverage in the media because of her gender; then insinuating that he wasn’t doing enough for the LGBT community whilst describing myself as the ‘normal’ candidate when I stood against a lesbian. Subtle, but there.”
The dedication to his comedy is flabbergasting. Not only has he convinced a nation that he’s an MP but he actually is an MP! And he really did lobby for a pharmaceutical company!
“Oh yeah, I go for the long game. It’s taken years of planning and I even got married. It’s the only way to get that realism, you know?”
So why has he chosen now to finally admit the hoax?
“I went too far,” he explains, “I thought it would be hilarious to just wholesale steal all the left’s policies, even though Smith is clearly a centrist. It’s the whole ‘I’ll say anything to get power’ thing. But then I messed up when a journalist asked me about my plans to ban zero hours contracts. They asked if one hour contracts would be okay and stupidly I said yes.
“Unfortunately that means that someone is going to realise that this is satire any minute. So I decided I better admit it now.”
So does this mean that he will withdraw his leadership challenge? That he’ll pull out now?
“No. Apparently my admitting that it’s a big joke hasn’t made much difference.
I told the PLP and they voted to let me carry on. They’ve since convinced themselves that I am really a Welsh Labour MP who thinks that anybody who is against kiddy-melting weapons of mass destruction is a pinko traitor and the whole Sacha Baron-Cohen thing is a stage act I do on the side. They won’t let me stop!”
Sacha Baron-Cohen’s Owen Show will be running in Westminster until autumn.