Labour sources have accused deputy leader and Shadow Brexit Secretary of Brexit-based ‘coup’ after ‘coordinated’ statements. Pair were also seen looking cosy in ‘off book’ meeting
On Monday, Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer and deputy leader Tom Watson both made similar statements that any Brexit compromise Labour might agree with the government would have to be subject to a new ‘confirmatory’ public vote:
Watson even went as far as to claim that Labour is a ‘remain and reform party’.
Both men’s statements were at odds with Labour’s policy of enacting the 2016 referendum result, keeping any form of new public vote as a last resort if needed to prevent a damaging Tory Brexit or no-deal departure.
The statements – considered extremely damaging to Labour electorally with Farage’s Brexit party riding high in the polls – are also regarded by Labour insiders as evidence of a new attempted coup by so-called ‘centrists’ in the party.
A ‘Brexit coup’
Very senior Labour sources told the SKWAWKBOX that they were “appalled” at the pair and considered the statements evidence of a ‘Brexit coup’.
The SKWAWKBOX has also seen correspondence between figures at the highest level of the shadow cabinet discussing how to deal with the Watson problem, after months of Watson’s media comments and appearances undermining the party.
National Executive Committee (NEC) members told the SKWAWKBOX that members of Labour’s senior body are equally aghast – and that talk of a so-called ‘confirmatory vote’ is unfounded. One said:
We are not re-running the referendum. We are not ‘remain and reform’. Labour policy is to leave the EU and [the pair] went way beyond their brief.
Seen at Southbank
Are Labour insiders right – were yesterday’s statements coordinated to try to force Labour into a position on Brexit against the party’s policy and even to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership ahead of what are expected to be difficult European Parliament elections next week?
There is evidence that may support their conclusion.
The SKWAWKBOX can reveal that Starmer and Watson were spotted in late February in a private meeting at Southbank in London:
The meeting took place on a Friday, when Watson might normally have been expected to be at his constituency in the West Midlands. Labour insiders were surprised to learn of the meeting between the two.
Both MPs were contacted for comment.
At the time of the meeting, Watson was publicly attempting to commandeer Labour’s disciplinary processes – while also meeting privately with representatives of the then-TIG group of MPs who had quit Labour and the Tories. Watson had also just put out a video shoring up the significance of the quitters after their disastrous launch was tainted by the first of several racism scandals.
Not a period when a senior Shadow Cabinet member might be expected to have a cosy private meeting with the destructive deputy leader.
But if the pair were spotted holding one such private discussion, how many more have they held – and was their ‘Brexit coup’ yesterday the result?
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