Never mind the #TrotskyiteTwist – Tom Watson’s car-crash Guardian interview should end his career

Tom Watson: ‘I’ve not really been in control of events in the last few weeks.’ He seems unable to control his tongue now [Image: David Levene for the Guardian].

Tom Watson: ‘I’ve not really been in control of events in the last few weeks.’ He seems unable to control his tongue now [Image: David Levene for the Guardian].

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.

Source: ‘I want to hug him but also shout at him’: Tom Watson on Jeremy Corbyn and Labour rifts | Politics | The Guardian


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30 thoughts on “Never mind the #TrotskyiteTwist – Tom Watson’s car-crash Guardian interview should end his career

    1. G.V.W. Lewis

      Disgraceful! I support Corbyn! I support Momentum. I am not rabble! I am a Socialist and a Democrat. I have no Bolshevik or Trotskyist traits in my political views. And as a member of the Labour Party I find Watson’s comments defamatory!

  1. montybestMontyBestUK

    I’m not a member of Momentum, however I feel I should now go and see for myself so I will visit the next meeting with interest.

    These are the dying days of an unsupportable elite, that have climbed on the back of the working poor for a generation or more.

    We finally have a Labour party that I am proud of for the first time in 61 years.

    I have hope, not for me but for my children and their children. The age of the SelfServative Labour MP is gone.

  2. r0guetrooper

    JC is all about democratic socialism and Watson and the rest of the PLP are doing everything in their power to undermine the democratic bit and wrecking the party in a giant hissy fit because they’re not getting their way with the actual members..

  3. Brian

    “So now the same MPs… demonstrating nothing so much as their own desire to keep their little Parliamentary club going,… at the expense of democracy”

    So true, how can these MP’s think this is not going to change. Faced with justifying their position, they have no option but to show their true colours. They are have been’s, and seen to be wanting.

  4. Karl Greenall

    Thanks for this. Watson is a total prize chump. He is an elected “John McTernan”! All this nonsense about Trots and Bolsheviks reminds me of the definition of a ” moderate”: a moderate us the political equivalent of a person who thinks they speak without an accent. The sooner he goes the better.

  5. James Kemp

    Where do we complain?

    This whole interview proves why some MP’s can never be trusted they are mostly weathercocks. When we need strong signposts showing the better way and supporting the people who get them elected. This who is incharge of the soul of labour, needs settling once and for all. After this election this running to the right wing press needs stopping!

  6. Kenneth Billis

    I seem to have read the claim more than once that Jeremy Corbyn has lost the support of 80% of his MPs. I far as I can see, he never did have their support. That’s why he only just made the ballot for leader and it’s the membership that has upset their cosy little club. Just think: £75,000 a year and all they wanted to do was agree with the Tories.

  7. stevecheneysindieopinions4u

    “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.”

    Which is hysterical really, and if you want a summary of the Labour Party’s problems, it’s that, right there. Not that the PLP are less popular than the unions, but that they didn’t KNOW that they were. For the past decade they have been more interested in pandering to Tory voters – who they’re convinced they’ll win over by being more Tory-like – than they have been in people who desperately WANT to vote for Labour. They had no idea who their voters were, and that’s why they lost the last election.

    1. Sean

      Watson also, somewhat conveniently, omitted to mention that he himself was elected under the ‘one member, one vote’ system. Voting for Watson is one of my life’s greater regrets…

  8. Phil Woodford

    Tom’s an old hand and certainly knows a Trot when he sees one. I expect he’s on the money here.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      No, he’s scaremongering with an old, old tactic. Haven’t you ever heard of “Reds under the bed”?

  9. Terry Casey (@tcliverpool)

    I have been laughed at for what I believe but I don’t care here I go, we had a Labour Party built by the establishment, from the death of John Smith we have had the left removed from the party or sidelined, we had Right wing MPs parachuted into safe seats for many years against the wishes of CLPs, we were silenced at conference, now here is the daft bit, hold tight, I believe the Labour party has been the reserves for when the Tories foul up and become unelectable, establishment replaced by establishment and when you think about Blair never changed policy for a full term when they came to power, never changed the union laws, in fact tightened them, I believe we have been conned for many years. it is time for change.

  10. Jackie Cairns

    Jeremy might want to give him a hug, before kicking him out of the door for the last time.
    Why would he give any of them respect after what they done? Cab’t wait for thr new NEC in September! bye bye Bitterites

  11. Hairyloon

    You need to take off your rose tinted goggles and read the interview again because it seems to me very likely to be bang on the money. Of course you will not see that because you hold Corbyn as the Messiah who can do no wrong, and it seems that you expect his messianic powers to extend to his apostles as well.
    If you think that there are no Trots in this new wave of membership, then you are deluded and if you think they are not a risk to Corbyn’s chances then you are blindly optimistic.

    That said, I don’t like Watson and he has done a piss poor job of a deputy, but you need to focus your attacks on the things that matter. The Trots and the perception of Trots is the biggest danger the Labour party faces and denying that as a possibility simply compounds the problem.

    Open your eyes and stock up on Imodium.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Don’t try to tell other people what they think.
      Don’t try to tell me I’ve written something other than the words in the article.
      And don’t try to end on a poor-taste humour.

      If you think I’ve got a rosy view of Tom Watson’s words, you don’t understand the saying. No, I don’t regard Corbyn in the way you describe but I do understand that he represents traditional Labour ideals that are attracting people back to the party in large numbers. No, I don’t think there aren’t any Trotskyists; I simply don’t accept fairy tales about them influencing hordes of youngsters. No, the “Trots” do not present a big danger, and neither does the fake perception of infiltration that Mr Watson put forward, rather desperately.

  12. mohandeer

    What Tom Watson has done is to re-introduce the old McCarthyism witch hunts against socialists who were referred to as “reds under the beds”. I cannot believe I helped vote him in and much regret it. I hope that JC requests his resignation forthwith and I shall be writing to complain about Watson to Ian McNicol for his back handed insults to the many people who have joined the Labour Party. I am not a socialist but I do want to see someone of honesty and integrity in a seat of power, which is why I voted for Jeremy Corbyn and Tom Watson, it would seem I got only one out of two hits.
    To refer to the members who have joined in such vast numbers in such broad sweeping terms, as with the use of the phrase “a bit of a rabble”, is as disgusting as it is insulting and I would venture, very deliberate.

  13. jack howes

    Nice to hear a balanced view ..if we can transfer the emotion and passion displayed here and put it into the proverbial melting pot…..then I do believe we have the socialist Labour partywith a banner …that we can all follow…and let’s hold it high up and right in front ….Mr Corbyn …must be the most maligned politician in Britain …and it is all because he is transparent …what you are seeing is what you will get ….how base are the ones who came before…how twisted and misinformed are they now…were there any among them that failed to spell and mean socialism for the common citizen….mature you may be Jeremy ….but you lead and the young will learn….and there can be a better life …a nicer place…an honest debate…make us all socialists and do it soon

  14. Gail Hughes

    “I thought he would realise that to lose the confidence of 80% of your MPs means that you can’t lead the Labour party.”

    You would think that 80% of the MPs would realise that if you aren’t prepared to work with the leader that your party has democratically elected you can’t justifiably claim to still represent that party.

  15. Peter Banks

    Watson,” … and I don’t want them to feel I’m labelling them because I’m not.” Even though he just did. You couldn’t make it up! Tom, is there a brake available for that mouth of yours? Maybe you should consider an alternative career to politics? Might I respectfully suggest after-dinner speaking at Tory events? That’ll be right up your out of touch with reality elitist street! Mind the door doesn’t hit you on the way out.

  16. Eric Jarvis

    I would love to give my comments on this excellent article. However my particular Trot faction has not yet had a meeting to decide our position on it due to a schism at the meeting in which we attempted to decide which pub to hold the meeting in. We hope to have an opinion by next Thursday and in the mean time my comrades and I in the genuinely socialist faction can only wish the reprehensible traitorous revisionist splitters enjoy their cheap lager and hipster decor whilst we decide what we are supposed to think over a craft ale or two and a few bags of pork scratchings down the Queen’s Elbow. Both of us.

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