Union leaders across Labour spectrum, as well as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, put Watson in his place – on the irrelevant fringe
Tom Watson’s desperate, illogical attempt to disrupt Labour’s strengthening unity over Brexit and a general election was delivered haltingly and unconvincingly today, with Labour’s notional deputy leader reading from what seemed to be a hastily cobbled-together script to provide the media with fodder for more claims of Labour disunity.
Unfortunately for him, he also triggered a reaction he may not have reckoned with – as union leaders across the spectrum, not only from the left of the movement, slapped him down unambiguously and without ceremony and Jeremy Corbyn, the party’s (twice) overwhelmingly elected leader elegantly put Watson in his place:
Tim Roache, head of the GMB union – which has normally leaned toward the party’s right – said Watson’s intervention was ‘wholly unwelcome’ and threatened to withdraw support from him and potentially even to push for a challenge against him.
CWU’s Dave Ward tweeted that he was interviewed by Sky – footage the broadcaster seems to have quailed from using – and that he had suggested that if Watson is so averse to elections, he should stand down and delay his own.
Len McCluskey, a frequent Watson critic, implied that Watson had crawled out from under a rock to undermine Corbyn – a rock on the outer fringe where nobody cares or is listening to what Watson says.
And Corbyn, maintaining a statesmanlike approach, simply made it clear that Watson’s opinion is not relevant to him or Labour’s policy.
The union leaders made a point of emphasising Corbyn’s status as leader – and that Watson is not – even Keir Starmer, speaking to the TUC, emphasised that Labour will act in government, and therefore not before a general election.
And media coverage made it absolutely clear that the union contempt for Watson’s conduct extended more or less across the board of union leaders at this week’s TUC congress in Brighton.
To put the icing on the cake, Watson’s intervention provided plenty of opportunity for Labour figures – on camera and largely uninterrupted – to repeat Labour’s Brexit and general election positions voters across the country.
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