Very interesting discussions this evening with two sources extremely close to the Labour leadership have cast an interesting light on rumours – which appear to be becoming firmer – that Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry may be planning to challenge Tom Watson for the deputy leader position.
It appears that at least 35 Labour MPs have already confirmed their willingness to back Ms Thornberry should she decide to stand. If Watson were to trigger a contest in a similar way to Len McCluskey with the Unite General Secretary’s position, this number would be enough to guarantee Thornberry a place on the ballot.
However, to force a contest, Ms Thornberry would need 50 or so nominations (depending on the total number of Labour MPs at the time). Her supporters are confident of reaching this number before Labour’s annual Conference.
One of the leadership sources, who is laying the groundwork for the #EmilyforDeputy campaign, told this writer:
The only thing keeping Tom in his role right now is his fear that he is a ‘dead man walking, or at least an ex-deputy leader’. He’s hanging onto his position by his fingertips and clinging to the hope that Emily might not get to 50 [nominations] if he doesn’t stand down.
Basically, he’s running scared. He knows that his mandate’s been dead for months and even more so after the latest shenanigans, but he doesn’t have the [bottle – not the actual word used!] to call a contest.
It appears even Watson knows he’s overreached and has little confidence that he could actually win a contest if members are given a say. The barrier between him and the cliff edge currently consists of 15 Labour MPs – possibly fewer and apparently diminishing.
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