Watson: “it’s better for the future of the party that I go now”


The SKWAWKBOX has covered this week increasingly firm reports that Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry is planning to challenge Tom Watson for the deputy leadership of the Labour Party – and has already gathered significant supporting nominations.

Watson, meanwhile, is running scared and is hoping he can avoid a contest. A source close to the Labour leadership told the SKWAWKBOX that Watson “doesn’t have the [bottle – not the word used!]” for the fight.

It appears that this is far from a new phenomenon – and that Watson himself knows full well that the Labout Party can’t thrive with him on the front bench.

In 2013, Tom Watson was a member of Ed Miliband’s front bench in Opposition and decided to resign. He published his resignation letter on his website – but later deleted it. However, thanks to the Wayback Machine’s archiving service, the whole thing is still available for us to view.

One passage in that letter stands out – Watson’s assessment of the divisive nature of his presence on the front bench and his own opinion that his departure was necessary for the good of the Labour Party:

watson resig.png

Even back in 2013, long before the ‘Corbyn surge’ in Labour membership and his relentless undermining of Labour’s twice-elected – overwhelmingly – leader, Watson recognised that there were many Labour MPs who had not forgiven him for stabbing then-PM Tony Blair in the back in 2006, in a move that accelerated Blair’s departure from office.

He also understood that any future hope of party unity and Labour’s ability to make headway were going to be hugely helped by his departure.

The other thing that stands out from the letter is a sense that Watson himself doesn’t ‘have the stomach for it’ – that he’d be much more at home at a music festival than carrying responsibility for the party. Watson appears to know he’s not a ‘stayer’ and doesn’t have the appetite for the fight:

Having resigned a couple of times before… After nearly thirty years of this, I feel like I’ve seen the merry-go-round turn too many times. Whereas the Shadow Cabinet’s for people who still want to get dizzy…

Here’s my parting thought:

John Humphrys asked me why you were not at Glastonbury this weekend. I said Labour leaders can’t be seen standing in muddy fields listening to bands. And then I thought how terribly sad that this is true.

Even in Watson’s own estimation, he was too jaded and unstable for front bench responsibilities – a remarkable admission from someone who presumably only stood for the deputy leadershup in 2015 out of, what – ego?

Surely he must recognise that if he was toxic and divisive in a 2013 Labour Party that was essentially trying to position itself as ‘Tory lite’, then he is an order of magnitude more toxic and divisive in a Labour party that is striving to return to its real nature – and the majority of whose members deeply despise the man they perceive as having demonstrated incorrigible disloyalty and poor judgment.

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  1. I’ve got no interest in Labour party infighting, but surely it’s not journalistic good practice to put up a quote in today’s headline which is taken from a three or four year old letter.

  2. “The best antidote for bad or deliberately misleading information is good information”.

    SQWARKBOX- A little about me and the aim of this blog – https://skwawkbox.org/about/

    Would we say that the cannibalisation of an old news story as a headline for a current news is good information? Or is it bad or deliberately misleading information?

    1. It’s intended to provoke, Brendan. Doesn’t try to pretend to be other than what it is. Kindly leave the editorial decisions to the editor.

    2. It seems to me perfectly OK to show TW’s past behaviour and indeed his apparent insight into his own weaknesses to provide background and depth to what is happening now. He is a man who has over- reached himself this past few days and brought the party and his own union into disrepute with fake news. It appears to be a pattern of being disruptive, and lacking respect towards has colleagues, despite being given the party’s trust and support on several occasions. It also fills in gaps in our assessment of him; he is known to be a bully, but this is backed up by his own admission that he really doesn’t have the stomach for a fight. So only too willing to hand it out, but not willing to take it? Typical. He’s a liability to the party now, and it’s time he did the decent thing.

  3. 1. Read the headline.
    2. Don’t believe it.
    3. Skip the rest of the article.
    4. Non-Story spreads.

  4. “I said Labour leaders can’t be seen standing in muddy fields listening to bands. And then I thought how terribly sad that this is true.” And here he is in a Corbyn led party, throwing shapes at Glastonbury without fear of a slap-down and he STILL can’t get behind the leader.

  5. So when will he go and we get Emily Thornberry as Deputy Leader, as we have but a few days before the May 4 possible snap early general election during the same time as the local elections.

    My interest. Mr Cridland’s state pension report aka abolition report has been published, which threatens current poorest pensioners with destitution, and future pensioners with never getting a pension, and the Tories will pass further pension age rise law after May’s reply to that report. The lack of state pension, pension credit and winter fuel allowance even up to age 70 for younger folk, will begin to kill current pensioners, in amongst the 4 million poorest over pension age.

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