‘Bru­tal­ity’ of Labour Party drove me out, says Wat­son

Daily Mail - - News - By Claire El­li­cott Po­lit­i­cal Cor­re­spon­dent

‘Po­lit­i­cal id­iocy and self-harm’

LABOUR’S for­mer deputy leader Tom Wat­son has re­vealed that he quit his role be­cause of the ‘bru­tal­ity and hos­til­ity’ he ex­pe­ri­enced in the party.

He also ad­mit­ted that he voted for Owen Smith as Labour leader over Jeremy Cor­byn and said the party’s next gen­er­a­tion must ad­dress whether they ‘ac­tu­ally want power’.

Mr Wat­son said he stepped down as an MP and deputy leader in part be­cause of the ag­gres­sion he faced.

At one point, po­lice told him that a Labour sup­porter had been ar­rested for mak­ing a death threat via the party that Labour of­fi­cials did not tell him about.

Al­though he praised Mr Cor­byn per­son­ally, he said con­di­tions within Labour had con­trib­uted to his de­ci­sion to step down.

‘The point is that the bru­tal­ity and hos­til­ity is real and it’s day to day,’ he told The Guardian. ‘So I just thought: now’s the time to take a leap, do some­thing dif­fer­ent. You’ve had a good in­nings. You’ve done good stuff. Go now.’

Mr Wat­son cited the pres­sures of so­cial me­dia, fac­tion­al­ism and crit­i­cism from unions, say­ing: ‘On their own, you deal with them and they’re a nor­mal part of life.

‘Com­bine them, and you’re car­ry­ing a very heavy load. And some­times you’ve got to re­alise when that bal­ance of life shifts and there are other things that are more re­ward­ing.’

At this year’s Labour con­fer­ence, Mr Wat­son faced a mo­tion from the Left of the party seek­ing to abol­ish his job. It was even­tu­ally with­drawn. The for­mer MP said the row sur­prised him, ad­ding: ‘I don’t think you could pre-empt such po­lit­i­cal id­iocy and col­lec­tive self-harm.’

Mr Wat­son blamed poor or­gan­i­sa­tion and mes­sag­ing for the party’s dis­as­trous show­ing at this month’s gen­eral elec­tion.

Boris John­son won a ma­jor­ity of 80 af­ter swathes of for­mer Labour voters switched to vote for the Con­ser­va­tive

Party. Mr Wat­son’s for­mer West Bromwich East con­stituency was among the many North­ern and Mid­lands seats lost to the Tories.

He cited Brexit, Mr Cor­byn’s lead­er­ship, is­sues over an­tiSemitism and a lack of party unity as rea­sons for the elec­tion de­feat.

‘I don’t even know what the mes­sage of our cam­paign was,’ he said. ‘There were an­nounce­ments ev­ery­where, but none of them got through be­cause there were so many. You knew what Boris John­son’s was: Get Brexit done. What was the Labour strapline?’

Mr Wat­son ad­mit­ted for the first time that he voted for Mr Smith when he ran for the Labour lead­er­ship in 2016 af­ter a vote of no con­fi­dence in Mr Cor­byn by Labour MPs.

‘I did vote for Owen, but I’ve never said it pub­licly be­fore,’ he said. ‘I thought, as soon as the leader loses the con­fi­dence of the par­lia­men­tary party it’s al­most im­pos­si­ble to see how you can form a gov­ern­ment. I thought Jeremy should have re­signed and he nearly did.’

Mr Wat­son warned that the next gen­er­a­tion of Labour lead­ers must ad­dress whether they ‘ac­tu­ally want power’ as they be­gin to re­build the party. He said: ‘ Does the Labour Party in its cur­rent form ac­tu­ally want power?

‘The ul­ti­mate be­trayal of work­ing-class peo­ple is not to take power when you can, and if you are a party that be­lieves in power through elec­tions, then that re­quires prag­ma­tism, pri­ori­ti­sa­tion, com­pro­mise and col­lab­o­ra­tion.’

Only two Labour MPs have so far for­mally de­clared their in­ten­tion to run for the lead­er­ship: Emily Thorn­berry, the Shadow For­eign Sec­re­tary, and Clive Lewis, a shadow Trea­sury min­is­ter.

Other ex­pected can­di­dates in­clude Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer and busi­ness spokesman Re­becca LongBai­ley. Lisa Nandy, David Lammy and Yvette Cooper could also stand.

Stepped down: Tom Wat­son with leader Jeremy Cor­byn

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