Did both Labour leadership candidates just call ‘time’ on Tom Watson’s term as deputy?

Jeremy Corbyn (left) and Owen Smith at the first Labour leadership debate [Image: Ben Birchall/PA].

Jeremy Corbyn (left) and Owen Smith at the first Labour leadership debate [Image: Ben Birchall/PA].

The decision by both Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith to ensure that a woman fills either the leader or deputy leader position in the Labour Party is sure to have a major effect – on Tom Watson, at the very least.

It seems likely that Jeremy Corbyn would use it to remove Mr Watson from the position, which it seems he has used to undermine the Labour leader – most recently with claims of ‘Trotskyist’ entryism into the party to support him.

Owen Smith’s camp appears more circumspect, saying that he would impose the necessary changes before any future leader or deputy leader contest.

This heel-dragging is noteworthy. Remember, Mr Smith shouldered Angela Eagle out of the way so he could challenge Mr Corbyn for the leadership; his pro-female credentials are more than a little tarnished.

This Writer is happy to see this promise, which should have been enacted much sooner, by at least one previous leader. Maybe Ed Miliband was working up to it, once his ‘one member, one vote’ change had bedded in.

I voted for a female deputy leader last year, having backed Mr Corbyn for the leadership, not only because I wanted equal gender representation but because I thought my choice might actually be good at organising the party – certainly in a way that Mr Watson has proved not to be.

One wonders how the arrangement would work. It seems preferable to keep the leadership open to all comers, so would future elections be staggered, with the choice of deputy leader restricted to people of one sex, dependent on the result of a leadership election?

On the boundary changes, anti-Corbyn MPs of both sexes should not feel safe with the promise to ensure the number of female Labour MPs will not be reduced.

Constituency Labour Party members are up in arms at the behaviour of their MPs, which they consider to have been atrociously disloyal to the party during the attempted coup in June and July and the current leadership election.

At a time when Labour should have been challenging the Conservative Party on some of the biggest political failures this country has seen in the 21st century, these MPs chose to turn inward in a highly destructive attack on both Mr Corbyn and the new members he has attracted into Labour.

Members are certain to demand the right to make every MP stand for re-selection as Parliamentary candidate prior to any future general election.

Already, some are saying MPs who were ‘parachuted in’ to constituencies are going to find themselves flat on their faces, with new candidates chosen from amongst the local membership.

But being a long-term local resident won’t make up for bad faith.

This means it may be very hard to predict the number of candidates – of either sex – standing for election next time around.

Perhaps there is a formula to keep such matters straightforward. I certainly hope so.

We have excellent people in the current shadow cabinet – both women and men – and measures to increase their ranks are to be welcomed.

Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith have promised to change [Labour] party rules to ensure that in future there will be at least one woman in post as the leader or as a deputy leader of the party.

Both leadership contenders have also guaranteed that the number of female Labour MPs will not be reduced by boundary changes which are expected to be announced next month.

The pledges have been made to the Labour Women’s Network, following an outcry about the domination of men in senior positions in the party.

With the Conservatives having now produced their second female prime minister, both candidates for the Labour leadership appear to be moving to establish their credentials on the issue of gender equality.

A source close to Corbyn’s campaign said the argument for a woman as deputy leader could in future be used to replace Tom Watson as the elected deputy. “The argument for a female deputy leader is one that has a lot of support. It could be alongside or in place of Watson.”

A spokesman for Smith said he would ask the party’s national executive committee to bring forward changes within a year of his leadership and before any future leadership or deputy leadership contest.

Source: Corbyn and Smith promise to have woman at top of Labour party | Politics | The Guardian


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10 thoughts on “Did both Labour leadership candidates just call ‘time’ on Tom Watson’s term as deputy?

  1. pj21516p

    I am all for any candidate Female or Male to replace the repugnant liar T Watson as long as they possess the wherewithal to carry out the strenuous task involved what I do not want is a Male or Female candidate getting the position with the only case for choice being gender

  2. mohandeer

    If this country were dominated by females and they decided to promote some men only posts, the women would be up in arms and calling it sexist. How strange then, that so many women have remained silent. Call me old fashioned but opportunities should be based on merit not gender, when women only are promoted it is rightly called discrimination against men of equal talent and merit, not equality.

  3. Rupert Mitchell (@rupert_rrl)

    Frankly, whilst I am very willing to have a female leader or deputy female leader of the party, I feel that such positions should not be remotely connected with the sex of any such person but only on the ability and suitability of a candidate of either sex. Electing either a male or female just to balance the sexes is not likely to provide the most suitable candidate.

  4. Neilth

    I didn’t vote for either Corbyn nor Watson as first choice but, as I have said many times now, they were elected by a majority of the membership and are therefore leader and deputy and each have the right to expect loyalty and support from us all including the PLP. No one should be publicly briefing against either. It is Undemocratic and disrespectful of the membership, basically telling us we got it wrong and don’t count. The problem with democracy is that we don’t always get the result we hoped for. It is not up to any of us to then undermine the result by constant briefing against. By the same rules it is wrong for some of those behind the scenes who do not occupy elected positions in the party and, in the case of many in Momentum are not even members, to be acting as attack dogs as they are alleged to be doing.
    Before you talk about proof, I have seen some of the nasty communications and threatening language being used towards more right wing members and MPs. I have also made my views on their actions known to my MP etc and argued against disloyalty etc with members from both sides.
    I believe I have taken a consistent and principled approach throughout this debacle and only wish all others did the same.
    My aim is to get as many Labour representatives elected to political bodies at all levels from community councils on up as possible and this is becoming harder and less likely the more this fratricidal war of attrition continues.
    As I said earlier, briefing against the democratic decision for either Corbyn or Watson is simply wrong and I wish all would take a step back and look at the best interests of the country and not their own.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Your argument demands that our elected representatives, including Mr Watson, give their loyalty and support to the democratically-elected leader, and that is something they have refused to do.

      In such a situation, it seems clear that a mistake was made in the election of the deputy and it would be compounding that mistake to support someone who doesn’t have the party’s best interests at heart.

      1. Neilth

        Weird. That’s the roughly the same argument the chicken coup made for its attack on Corbyn. As I said this is the problem with democracy.

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        Their argument was that they shouldn’t give any loyalty and support to the democratically-elected leader. It’s the opposite of yours. And they clearly don’t have the best interests of the Labour Party at heart, otherwise they would not be working their hardest to split it up.

  5. Zippi

    As much as I would like to see a female in a senior role. I would rather that merit was the deciding factor. If we carry out a tick box exercise, how long before I demand that we have blacks, who have long been excluded from such positions, or religious minorities? I voted for a female mayoral candidate but that did not come to fruition. I did not vote for any of the women in te leadership election, not because I didn’t want a woman but because I didn’t want any of THOSE women. Surely, the equality should be one of opportunity. By excluding people from the process, are we doing what is right for the party, or even for equality, or representation of minorities? Surely, the way forward is to promote those who would otherwise be in the shadows, make those people known to the membership, not simply put them forward based on gender.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I said something about this on the Facebook page this morning that bears repeating, as follows:
      I agree with the merit argument but can we honestly say Tom Watson was elected because he’s the best person for the job?
      No, we can’t.
      There are plenty of women in the Labour Party who are hugely capable. My own CLP has been chaired by two women since I’ve been a member, and the leader of Labour on Powys County Council is also a woman. That’s just locally.
      I honestly don’t think there’s any shortage of talent.
      Of course, the movement to get women into positions of responsibility has been hugely hindered by the kind of person who tries to put women OVER men, or claims that women have more or higher obstacles to surmount than they really do. You know what I mean.
      As I say, there are plenty of women who are perfectly capable of getting on with the job and addressing these issues in a no-nonsense manner.

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