Scottish Labour contest sparks renewed calls to remove Watson

As soon as former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale announced her resignation, the Labour right began agitating for a woman to replace her. However, confirmation emerged that the battle for the leadership would be contested between the pro-Corbyn Richard Leonard and ex-Progress vice-Chair Anas Sarwar, meaning that the leaders and deputy leaders both the UK and Scottish parties will all be male.

Former acting leader Harriet Harman was among the first, tweeting:


Yardley MP Jess Phillips also sounded off, telling the Guardian:

The Labour party has a thorny issue to face, as if [Kezia] was replaced by a man all of our leadership positions go to men. People will shout meritocracy as if women aren’t good enough and the best person for the job is always a man, but what’s not good enough is if Labour women are always sidelined.

Other anonymous sources joined in with even more florid comments – but it wasn’t only politicians, although the contributions bordered on the ridiculous. Kate McCann, for example, made the point that Corbyn ‘chose’ Watson as his deputy – how the Telegraph’s senior political correspondent explains her ignorance that Labour elects its deputy leaders would be interesting to find out.

Right-wingers are perhaps desperate to engineer either a walk-over female accession to the Scottish leadership or to try to force out the Corbyn-supporting Alex Rowley from the Scottish deputy position before Corbyn gets chance to use Rowley’s immediate presence on the National Executive Committee to push through the democratisation of the party that the vast majority of members are crying out for.

However, both Labour women are highlighting the right issue – while looking in the wrong direction.

In March, Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry was said to be considering a challenge to UK deputy leader Tom Watson and to be very close to the number of nominations she would need to force a contest. Watson, now despised by most Labour members for his undermining of the democratically-elected leader, would be almost certain to lose.

Now, the news that only male candidates have come forward for the Scottish leadership election has triggered revived calls for Thornberry – or one of a number of other possible candidates – to remove Watson, solving two problems simultaneously: the replacement of a poor deputy leader by a far better candidate and a better leadership gender balance.

Here are some of the calls on social media:

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Moves toward a challenge have gone onto the back burner lately as Labour focused on its strategy to prepare for another General Election by campaigning in key target seats – but it’s time to turn up the heat again – not just to meet the justified need for a female presence in the national leadership, but to cement a deeply necessary pro-Corbyn advantage on the NEC.

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  1. i watched Tom Watson being interviewed on Thursday night’s BBC Newsnight. It really wasn’t a very edifying experience and he certainly didn’t do much to enhance the reputation of the Labour Party.
    The sooner he’s gone the better.

  2. I agree there’s an issue, but if no women come forward, then “Labour women are always sidelined” is a meaningless comment. Surely Ms Phillips doesn’t want a woman to be forced to take the job? Or maybe she thinks an English woman should get the job? Maybe she’s angling for a nomination herself?

  3. There may be perfectly good reasons to get rid of Tom Watson, but the fact that he’s a man is not one of them. The fact that two men came forward to contest the leadership in Scotland does not mean that women are being sidelined, just as tossing a coin twice and getting two heads does not mean it’s biased. Whilst i support a commitment to equality and diversity, it’as this sort of gender nonsense which is going to hold Labour back.

  4. There are in fact two people in senior roles who have proved to be completely ineffectual and incapable of carrying out even the basic requirements of their role; Tom Watson and Iain McNicol.

    Both of these people were completely invisible at the last election and both have a long record of bringing the party into disrepute and damaging the electability of the Labour Party.

    Tom Watson and Iain McNicol should both be replaced. There are many women in the Labour Party who could carry out the duties and responsibilities of Deputy Leader and General Secretary to a far higher standard than the current rather useless incumbents.

  5. Their air of disrepute hanging over Watson and McNicol is almost palpable but they’re only the most visible manifestation of a whole cadre of viscerally anti-Corbyn chancers and blackguards, both within the party hierarchy and agitating from its periphery (e.g. Mandelson, Kinnock, Darling etc.)

    The PLP, NEC, NCC, CAC and party staff are riddled with less well known but equally damaging saboteurs who form a more potent opposition to Jeremy Corbyn than the Tories ever will.

    It is long past the time that they were all bulldozed into whatever festering, reputational landfill applies to their particular pretension.

  6. The best person for the job should get the job, Male or female. The All women’s shortlist issue is a big thorn in the side of the party. These lists have lost good councillors simply because they were men. The party has to abandon this type of discrimination as it has out lived it’s purpose to the point of becoming patronising. Jeremy seems to be exceptionally slow in removing both Watson and McNichol. just replace them with someone who is competent.

  7. Harman & phillips (The usual suspects) spouting loudest…

    Harman’s done it before (Acting party leader AND deputy) & brought to the despatch box about as much as a fart brings to a hurricane. She thought being a woman’d make her suited to the job…Almost thinks it to be a god-given right, the idiot.

    Same as phillips…Who’d be ‘enlightened’ (for want of a better term) whoever she was up against in a leadership/deputy election – nevermind at the despatch box. (Not that she’d get anywheres near it)

    So, I’d happily encourage ‘mouth-almighty’ to throw her name in the hat, just to see what sort of message she’d get. Not that it’d shut her up in future, because that’s her trademark, now – causing ructions within her own party, and giving ammo to the toerags. She’s got bugger-all else. She never had any other discernible ‘talent’ – political or otherwise.

    Phillips – The quintessential ‘One-trick pony’.

  8. Dawn Butler. In the general election when in front of the media she came a cross as genuine… a nice person. Some times the gut tells you who is genuine or perhaps its there subtleties of being. Jeremy corbyn the same . We have to put our trust in people , Jess philips isn’t one of them. Dawn Butler for me even if she has to give up her new roll.


  10. Emily Thornberry is the best Deputy contender. It’s hard to accept she can’t get enough support. She’s articulate, clever and her politics are in the right place. She is feared by all right wingers for those very reasons. The incredible hysteria kicked up by the Tory press over “van gate” proves the point.

    1. That’s a very good point about the excellent Emily Thornberry not being able to get the nominations required to challenge a thoroughly discredited figure like Watson.

      It suggests a PLP composition with relatively small, actively pro- and anti-Corbyn contingents, plus everyone else who, for the most part, are just trying to protect their meal-tickets by not committing to either side in case they back the wrong horse and have to face the music somewhere down the road.

      Watson’s done for if Emily gets the nominations. The actively pro-Corbyn people would presumably back Emily in a heartbeat but that doesn’t get her over the challenge threshold.

      Anyone from the ‘everyone else’ grouping would basically be signing Watson’s marching orders by nominating Emily because hasn’t got a hope in hell of beating her in a run off.

      It’s rather fitting of Watson to be grimly hanging on like the odour of a hangover shit.

  11. Is it not ironic that one reason Dugdale resigned was because of her outing by the Fabian journalist, yet who is one of the most prominent Fabian Women?? Yes, dear Harriet. The main stay of the Fabian women’s political development initiative that gave us Phillips too.

    (I have no problem with all women short lists too, because in Wales we have a poor record of selecting the “best” candidate in mixed lists.)

  12. You have to ask Harriet Harman if it was so important why did they not stand a woman against Jeremy Corbyn in the last election, I think it is more about the right trying to keep control in Scotland and therefore on the NEC rather than equality.

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