Labour deputy leader floundered when probed on consequences of remain push he advocates
Tom Watson faced a rare, probing interview when he talked to the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg today, following a speech to a pro-EU group in which he called for Labour to campaign to remain in the EU.
When Kuenssberg asked a couple of simple, direct questions about the consequences of such a change of policy – Labour is committed to honouring the referendum as long as a no-deal exit can be avoided – Watson floundered:
Asked about the electoral cost of such a switch, Watson could not come up with a positive argument and was forced to admit that it would probably cost Labour votes and parliamentary seats – for no better reason than ‘giv[ing] an honest account‘ of ‘why we’ve changed position‘.
But this is, of course, patent nonsense – Labour has not changed position, so an ‘honest account’ is not ‘we back remain’. That may be a Tom Watson policy, but it is not Labour policy.
Watson claimed that his imaginary change of policy is needed because ‘Brexit is harder than it looked’. But this says more about Watson than about Labour – he has a dire reputation among many of his parliamentary colleagues for starting things that go nowhere because of laziness.
Watson insisted that a new referendum is the only way to ‘break the deadlock’ in Parliament and claimed to Kuenssberg that a way to agree one might be found in Parliament – even though Parliament has already voted down a new referendum on numerous occasions and the current mix of MPs will not do differently. The only option Labour has for trying to force change is a vote of no confidence leading to a general election.
Yet, when Kuenssberg challenged him to explain why a new referendum would settle anything rather than causing more division, Watson was stumped and had to admit that it may well solve nothing.
And in the end, Watson even admitted that Labour’s position has not changed – exposing the whole premise of his speech and of the claims in the interview as just so much fantasy.
The reaction to the video when it was released on Twitter by the BBC was scathing. with the vast majority of the hundreds of responses attacking Watson’s performance, motives and relevance.
Tom Watson’s speech, supposedly some kind of signal moment, turned out to be nothing more than an exposure of his own vacuity and lack of respect for strategy, for agreed policy and for the wishes of more than half of those who voted in 2016.
The reaction of Labour members and supporters, who pushed the #SackTomWatson hashtag to trend at number two in the UK, made clear how badly he had miscalculated.
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