If Labour’s NEC doesn’t receive thousands of demands for Tom Watson’s resignation after his Guardian interview, the Labour Party would have to be asleep.
Already there has been uproar over his claim that “Trotskyites” have been “twisting young arms” to support Jeremy Corbyn, which is complete nonsense and an insult demanding mention on those resignation demands.
Remember when Labour members were being terrorised by claims that their social media communications were being monitored and anybody using the words “traitors”, “scabs”, and later “Blairites” would lose their vote in the leadership election?
Some of us responded that this was unlikely, and in any case would be unfair unless use of the words “Trots”, “rabble” and “dogs” were also checked, and their users banned as well.
And here’s Tom Watson [boldings mine]:
Watson is conspicuously reluctant to apportion blame for the crisis facing Labour, but when pressed, he acknowledges, “There are Trots that have come back to the party, and they certainly don’t have the best interests of the Labour party at heart. They see the Labour party as a vehicle for revolutionary socialism, and they’re not remotely interested in winning elections, and that’s a problem. But I don’t think the vast majority of people that have joined the Labour party and have been mobilised by the people that are in Momentum are all Trots and Bolsheviks.
“Some months ago, I described Momentum as ‘a bit of a rabble’, and although leading lights in Momentum privately acknowledged to me that they were a bit of a rabble, it caused great offence to everyone that had signed up to Momentum. Some of these people are deeply interested in political change, in building a more equal society, and are just on a journey in politics that they’re new to, and I don’t want them to feel that I’m labelling them because I’m not.”
“But there are some old hands twisting young arms in this process, and I’m under no illusions about what’s going on. They are caucusing and factionalising and putting pressure where they can, and that’s how Trotsky entryists operate. Sooner or later, that always end up in disaster. It always ends up destroying the institutions that are vulnerable, unless you deal with it.”
This is unacceptable, and utterly unsupportable with reference to the facts.
Jeremy Corbyn won the leadership election because he appealed to a huge number of young voters who were sick of the neoliberal domination of politics they’d had to suffer all their lives. It had nothing to do with older Trotskyites.
Watson himself says he doesn’t think the vast majority of people who joined Labour were of the far left.
And he goes on to attack Momentum, claiming “leading lights” had privately admitted that the organisation was “a bit of a rabble”. Privately? How convenient. So we have no corroborative evidence but Tom Watson has just put it in every Guardian readers mind that Momentum are “a bit of a rabble”. He observes that it caused great offence the first time he said it – now he has decided to cause the same offence all over again.
This Writer is offended by his words, and I’m not even a member of Momentum!
Still, there was no reason to expect better, especially considering the quality of journalism. Look at this:
Watson had no idea that Labour’s leader would call for article 50 to be triggered at once, within hours of the referendum result. “But if I’m being honest, I’d not focused a lot on the plan B in the planning meetings that I’d had with him.”
Perhaps the Graun‘s Decca Aitkenhead hasn’t had the memo yet, but that claim about Jeremy Corbyn has been debunked. He didn’t call for Article 50 to be triggered immediately and it is misleading of reporters to suggest it. One wonders why they do.
At least Watson admits that he did try to push Mr Corbyn out of the Labour leadership after the so-called ‘Chicken Coup’ begain.
When Watson heard that a no-confidence motion had been tabled, “I didn’t pay it much heed. I thought it wouldn’t have legs.” He won’t say which way he voted, but the result came as a shock. Even then, it didn’t occur to him that Corbyn would defy the PLP’s indictment. “I thought he would realise that to lose the confidence of 80% of your MPs means that you can’t lead the Labour party.”
It wasn’t until six days after the no-confidence vote that Watson met Corbyn privately. “It was very sad, really. But it was also, as ever, polite. I said, I don’t think you can lead the Labour party if you’ve lost 80% of your MPs, and he said, well, look, you’ve said what you have to say, and thank you for saying it.”
So, clearly, Watson believes that Labour MPs are the most important element in the party and the will of the members is subordinate to them.
Do you think that’s a bit extreme? Then consider the following:
Watson wants to reverse Ed Miliband’s “terrible error of judgment” and reinstate the old electoral college system, which accorded one-third of the votes in a leadership election to the PLP and a third each to the unions and the members.
Most significantly, Watson wants to reintroduce elections to the shadow cabinet. Is he sure that MPs who resigned, or refused to serve under Corbyn, would reconsider if elected by the PLP? “I have no idea. But I think if Owen wins it’s still important to do it, because a new leader has got to reshape and rebuild the PLP, and that means giving respect and dignity back to a lot of colleagues.”
This is why Watson needs to go. And he needs a lesson in history before he does.
Ed Miliband only changed the party voting system to ‘one member, one vote’ after right-wing MPs complained that the electoral college system gave too much power to trade unions. They were complaining that the unions had forced a leader on them that they didn’t want – namely Mr Miliband himself. They believed that the membership were far more likely to elect a leader they could support.
They were wrong. It turned out the membership is far more left-wing than their MPs, and that is why Mr Corbyn was elected last year.
So now the same MPs want to go back to the old system – demonstrating nothing so much as their own desire to keep their little Parliamentary club going, at the expense of the people who work to get them elected into that club, and at the expense of democracy.
His plan to reintroduce elections to the shadow cabinet comes from the same place – a desire to outflank any future left-wing Labour leader. If the MPs – the majority of whom are right-wing, as we’ve seen over the last few weeks – elect their own shadow cabinet members, the leader will not be able to fire them and will be, in effect, their hostage if he disagrees with them.
Thanks all the same, but we’ve been through that.
It has taken Labour’s membership decades to climb out from under all the restrictions that have been place on them, and they are enjoying the freedom they have at the moment.
They have a new majority in the NEC that supports Mr Corbyn, not Mr Watson and the so-called ‘Moderebels’, and they have the upper hand.
It is clear that Mr Watson won’t accept that.
If he refuses to accept the will of the majority, he’ll have to go.
Join the Vox Political Facebook page.
If you have appreciated this article, don’t forget to share it using the buttons at the bottom of this page. Politics is about everybody – so let’s try to get everybody involved!
Vox Political needs your help!
If you want to support this site
(but don’t want to give your money to advertisers)
you can make a one-off donation here:
Buy Vox Political books so we can continue
fighting for the facts.
Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:
The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here: