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:
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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