Labour deputy leader has done a u-turn of convenience on Brexit issue
Labour deputy leader Tom Watson has responded to the establishment of the Brexit Party by claiming that this somehow means Labour must throw 100% support behind a new referendum, in spite of polling – and simple common sense – that shows Labour must not ignore or disrespect its heartlands that voted to leave the EU in 2016.
Farage’s new party poses a huge threat to the Tories, but inasmuch as it threatens Labour, the danger is that it outflanks Labour in those heartlands and allows Labour to be perceived there as a ‘stop Brexit’ party. Labour has honoured its conference policy – on three occasions it has backed a new referendum in Parliament with a ‘three-line whip’ and on each occasion the motion was defeated.
The Brexit party’s emergence makes clear that, with its conference commitment fulfilled, it’s time for Labour to abandon any notion of a new referendum and do what it’s 2017 manifesto said it was committed to doing: delivering Brexit – but one that avoids the craven surrender or no-deal alternatives offered by the Tories and which would do huge damage to this people, while respecting the referendum result.
But Watson’s position looks like one of convenience rather than conviction – and it has a familiar feel.
Before the 2016 referendum, Tory Boris Johnson infamously wrote two statements about his position on the EU – one backing remain and one backing leave – while he made his mind up which side of the issue would best suit his ambitions.
Long before the referendum was called by David Cameron, Watson was among those backing the prospect – and in 2017, he said emphatically that Labour would suffer a disastrous general election if the party did not promise to end freedom of movement:
Johnson and Watson: two politicians who have performed a shameless about-face to suit their own agendas while presenting it as principle. But there is one key difference between them.
Boris Johnson’s antics have always been calculated to play to his base within Tory party – and have positioned him with a reasonable, if perverse, chance of becoming Tory leader.
Tom Watson’s behaviour, by contrast, has put him beyond the pale in the eyes of the vast majority of Labour members. He has absolutely no chance of becoming Labour leader.
Never mind leader. If Watson had the courage to test his mandate by triggering another contest – or in the more likely event that a challenger gathered enough support to trigger one – for the deputy leader’s position he would be hammered so emphatically even some of his opponents might be embarrassed for him.
Tom Watson is Labour’s Boris Johnson – an opportunist chancer, driven by ego, waving his principles but always ready to pull out another set if the wind changes – but without the leadership prospects. The sooner he is gone, the better for the party and for the millions in this country who need a Labour government.
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