Former deputy leader’s version of history being eagerly pushed by media will probably not include these events
Labour losing 50 seats is in national interest
Tom Watson has said, in a new Guardian article, that:
The ultimate betrayal of working-class people is not to take power when you can
However, in June he told the media that Labour should fully commit to a new Brexit referendum and campaign for remain – even though he admitted the move might well cost Labour votes.
Labour MPs in leave-voting seats predicted – correctly – that such a change would cost Labour around fifty seats in ‘leave’ towns, wiping out any chance of Labour taking power.
Fellow front-benchers said that in the Shadow Cabinet meeting that followed, fWatson was challenged for saying that Labour should pursue a course they felt would lead to defeat – and responded by questioning whether a Labour government was not in the national interest.
One Shadow Cabinet member told the SKWAWKBOX at the time:
Jon [Trickett] challenged his ‘national interest’ spiel by pointing out that losing seats would harm Labour’s chance of forming the next government and that this was clearly the real national interest.
Tom interrupted him, saying “Is that the best you can do? Jon, do you really believe that?”
Watson’s co-religionists on the right of the party are now conveniently ignoring that the losses they now want to blame on Jeremy Corbyn were exactly what they were warned would happen if the new referendum switch they were all pushing for took place.
Attacks on Jennie Formby
One of the most shameful incidents of Watson’s tenure as deputy leader was his decision to attack Labour’s general secretary Jennie Formby when she was being treated for breast cancer.
Watson wrote a letter to Formby demanding that she publish the party’s response to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) antisemitism investigation.
The letter was almost immediately leaked to the media – but Labour sources said that Jennie Formby had offered to meet Watson to provide him with the information and had even taken time out from chemotherapy treatment to give an update to the whole Shadow Cabinet. Watson was present, but did not ask any questions.
The attack triggered a wave of condemnation, with even the West Midlands Labour Board – Watson’s home patch – unanimously supporting Formby. The South-East regional board described his behaviour as ‘abhorrent’. NEC members went public to call for his resignation.
Watson’s attack on Formby was not a one-off. In February he was chastised by front-bench colleagues Dawn Butler and Emily Thornberry after another bout of criticism of the general secretary and her hard-working staff – and an attempt to insert himself into Labour’s disciplinary processes by demanding to be copied in on complaints sent in by MPs.
Formby politely but effectively put Watson in his place, telling him his ‘inappropriate’ attempt to insert himself into the process would ‘confuse’, ‘compromise’ and ‘pollute’ the disciplinary processes she and her staff had been working hard to improve.
‘Shockingly unfit’ – and a global trend
In May, thousands of Labour members signed an open letter to Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to express their complete lack of confidence and calling on the ‘shockingly unfit’ deputy leader to resign:
who has repeatedly shown himself to be actively working against the current Leadership, the membership and the Party during his tenure.
From his derisory comments to the press regarding the party membership, to him mass blocking large segments on social media when he was elected to represent us.
From him briefing in the media against Party staff and Party policy, to showing an egregious misreading of the mood of Labour members and voters.
From his distracting and counter-productive little vanity projects that do not go anywhere, to his unmitigated inability to have done a single tangible thing that has benefited Labour members or voters in his nearly 4 year tenure.
We believe Tom Watson to be shockingly unfit to be Deputy Leader of the Labour Party.
The wish among Labour members for Watson to resign was not a new phenomenon. Almost a year earlier, the #ResignWatson hashtag trended as the global number one.
Protecting his mates
Also in May of this year, an NEC member went to the extraordinary lengths of publicly condemning Watson for his behaviour in the committee’s disciplinary meetings.
Although Watson has been a vocal critic of Labour’s disciplinary processes, Lara McNeill’s lengthy Twitter thread attacked Watson’s lack of knowledge around the rules – and accused him not only of ‘deliberately miscommunicat[ing] Labour’s rules to undermine us tackling complaints’, but also of ‘filibustering’ meetings, briefing to the media and protecting his ‘mates’:
Other NEC members made similar complaints earlier in the year.
Give me a better conference slot or I’ll criticise the party more
In August last year, Watson was unhappy with the Monday ‘slot’ offered to him for his speech at Labour’s annual conference – so unhappy that, according to party insiders, he threatened to step up his public criticisms of the party.
Watson’s slot was not improved – and days later an interview appeared in the Guardian in which Watson attacked Labour’s electability and disciplinary processes.
Child sex abuse false allegations
In a scandal now conveniently omitted, only five months after the fact by the media now giving eager space to Watson’s comments – pressure again grew for Watson’s resignation as Carl Beech was jailed for fraud and perverting the course of justice.
Watson was accused of pressuring police and the government to pursue Beech’s claims:
IICSA, the official inquiry into child sex abuse allegations, was also told that Watson had jumped the gun without listening properly before telling Parliament there was a ‘powerful paedophile network’ linked to Downing Street.
Watson was also forced to apologise to the family of former Tory minister Leon Brittan. In that apology, Watson described his own words as “emotive and unnecessary”.
It’s our job to stop the Tory government falling
In another remarkable incident, Watson last year told Sky News that it was his job to prevent the collapse of Theresa May’s Tory government – and that its ‘meltdown’ was ‘no good’:
Saudi arms sales
In June, the courts declared that UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia have been illegal, because those weapons are used in attacks on Yemeni civilians. Jeremy Corbyn welcomed the ruling and called on the government to end those sales, describing them as a ‘moral stain’ on our country.
In 2016, the Labour leader forced a Commons vote on ending arms sales to Saudi Arabia and military support in the devastation it was inflicting on the people of Yemen:
The Tories, of course, voted against the motion. Tom Watson did not support it.
Praise for the architect of Windrush scandal, hostile environment and misery
When Theresa May resigned as PM earlier this year, Tom Watson made a public tribute to her ‘honorable intentions’ and her attempts to ‘do what was right for our country’:
Communications union head Dave Ward summed up the feelings of many in his reply to Watson’s tweet:
Attempt to take power away from Labour’s members – and its leader
In the run-up to Labour’s 2016 annual conference – and with Jeremy Corbyn on course to win an even bigger majority in his second leadership contest – Watson asked the party’s NEC to accept a ‘blockbuster’ plan for changes to the party’s democracy.
Among those proposals was a switch back to the ‘electoral college’ system, in which a few MPs would have as much voting power as Labour’s entire membership.
Watson also wanted to take away Corbyn’s power to appoint his Shadow Cabinet and switch instead to an election by MPs – more power for those right-wingers again.
And a bonus…
In September, when Watson escaped an attempt to abolish his deputy leader’s position at the party’s conference, BBC News reported a tweet by the deputy leader that mocked the attempt and crowed over the likely swamping of any positive messages from the conference.
But the tweet was not by Watson – it was by the well-known ‘Satiresocialist’ account. The BBC believed it and didn’t bother to check (click video in tweet to play) its authorship:
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