Category Archives: Tom Watson
In the latest Political Barb, ‘General Election 2017 – Fox Hunting’ summarised here, Steve Beauchampé asks if anyone has seen Tom Watson – all but invisible since the General Election was called on April 18th:
“We shouldn’t be too surprised however, I’d always imagined that as an avowedly pro-New Labour, anti-Corbynite, Watson’s main focus ahead of June 8th would be developing a strategy to take back control of the party machinery from the several hundred thousand ideologically driven enthusiasts who have joined Labour since summer 2015. This, following the anticipated electoral disaster and subsequent dispatching of Corbyn to the margins of political history.
“So this Labour surge, even should it ultimately fail to deliver the party the opportunity to form a government, is deeply problematical for those in the Parliamentary Labour Party who so readily opposed or otherwise distanced themselves from the man who has suddenly – and quite unexpectedly – become arguably Labour’s biggest asset”
He notes that ‘missing in action’ are various leading Conservatives: Liam Fox, Sajid Javid, Preeti Patel, Andrea Leadsom, even Chancellor Philip Hammond. But Home Secretary Amber Rudd, who stood in for May during a BBC leaders’ debate last Wednesday ‘put in a combative performance’ leaving Theresa May owing her big time . . .
The ‘downgrading’ of chief political advisors Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy and enhanced rôle of chief strategist Lynton Crosby leads Beauchampé to ask: “Ah, would that be the same Lynton Crosby who oversaw Zac Goldsmith’s highly successful London Mayoral bid last year? Or the same Lynton Crosby who oversaw the equally effective Remain campaign for the 2016 EU referendum . . .
His conclusion: “Restoring Theresa May’s self-congratulatory, complacent, personal power grab of a campaign is probably beyond even Crosby. It is fatally tainted, exposed for its galaxy of emptiness and arrogant narcissism and it long ago ran out of road. Ultimately the mass transfer of UKIP votes to the Tories will probably save her, and might yet ensure her a healthy, workable majority. But Theresa May is diminished, with the clock already ticking on her departure date as internal party scores are settled and her enemies prepare to exact revenge. And who would have thought that the Conservatives would be the party we’d be writing this about seven weeks ago!
As for Jeremy Corbyn, blimey, he’s almost become a national treasure.
Just noted on this site’s stats: on Sunday and Monday alone, nearly 4000 people found our brief post, quoting John Pilger’s view of Jeremy Corbyn – unprecedented for this uncontroversial portal.
Labour membership is said to be on course to hit 600,000, after a second successive day in which more than 100,000 people have applied to become party members, reports Stephen Bush (New Statesman).
Local parties – who are responsible for vetting new members in the first instance – report that the bulk of joiners who have responded to welcome emails or messages from MPs are strongly opposed to any attempt to remove Corbyn, who was elected by 60% of Labour members and supporters nine months ago.
On Friday hundreds gathered in the centre of Birmingham to show support for Jeremy Corbyn.
On Saturday 9th, without warning, Tom Watson announced that a Sunday meeting arranged with trade union leaders, representatives of the PLP and the party leader, at the request of Watson and his colleagues, would not go ahead. McCluskey said, “Extraordinarily, I received no notice of this statement before it was issued. I had made arrangements for specifically for Mr Watson’s convenience”.
Watson’s misrepresentation exposed
McCluskey continued: “I must clarify one point in Tom Watson’s statement – I made it absolutely clear from the outset of these discussions that Jeremy Corbyn’s resignation as the leader was not on the agenda. Watson knew that, and it is entirely wrong to suggest that any public statement by Jeremy represented any change in the situation. This is a deeply disingenuous manoeuvre.
Len McCluskey of Unite and the general secretaries of unions Unison and the GMB pledged their support to Jeremy Corbyn at the Durham Miner’s Gala.
Those Labour MPs who refused to support Jeremy Corbyn in the recent vote of confidence had their invitations to stand on the balcony of the County Hotel and the platform on the racecourse at the Durham Miners’ Gala rescinded.
DMA general secretary Dave Hopper said: “We will not allow those who have sought to humiliate him and undermine the democratic process in the Labour Party the honour of taking part in the aforementioned gala traditions.”
Now living in Jamaica, ‘african herbsman1967’, whose working experience in the Westminster village informs some of his UK-related blogs, realises that Corbyn’s biggest Achilles heel has been his former shadow cabinet.
He continues: “The mass resignations confirmed selfishness and a complete loss of any political acumen”.
“Given that David Cameron had just resigned on Friday and that an impending crisis in the Tory party loomed, the Labour Party’s shadow cabinet should have kept quiet and watched the meltdown in Thatcher’s party.
“But no, the Blairite and Brownite wings in the shadow cabinet resigned and took the negative headlines away from the Tory party. Marvellous.
“This Labour Party has managed to now look more of a mess than the current GOP under Donald Trump.
“No doubt the mass resignations were planned long before this weekend to force Corbyn to quit. The Brexit vote excuse is just a smokescreen. The plot to bring down Corbyn started the minute he was elected leader.
“Corbyn has shown better judgement as leader than I expected and that really surprised me. I feel that he should be open to doing more interviews with the local and international media to broaden his appeal.
“He brought thousands of new members to the Labour Party. He’s won a by-election and a Mayor of London under his brief leadership. His handling of Jo Cox’s death was mature and set the right tune.
“I also commend Corbyn for placing mental health issues at the heart of his leadership. To do all that with little support in the press and from fellow senior Labour MPs is remarkable.
“This is a real test for Corbyn to show his resilience, flexibility, acumen and leadership”.
Read the whole blog here: https://wingswithme.wordpress.com/2016/06/27/british-labours-party-kamikaze-missi
How the British right-wing media (that’s almost all of it these days) must have anticipated Jeremy Corbyn’s speech to Labour’s Annual Conference. After all the sniping and sneering, the attempts at character assassination, the dredging up of something he said 30 years ago and the universal hands held up in horror because he didn’t sing ‘God Save the Queen’ (nor, if you study photos of the event, did some others), here was their chance to really put the boot in.
Since Corbyn was so convincingly elected Labour’s leader, the press has been full of articles saying he was ‘unelectable’ as a Prime Minster, and running polls to prove people didn’t think he looked like a Prime Minister.
Do we seriously choose a Prime Minister because he/she looks the part, wears the right suit/dress?
Things looked good after the Financial Times printed an article by Janan Ganesh the day before. Tweeters were full of praise for this ‘wonderful, incisive political commentator’, including arch Tony Blair lover John Rentoul. Ganesh displayed some thoughtful analytical rubbish, as in:
The electors who were decisive in giving him the run of the Labour party are public-sector professionals or students on their way to becoming the same.
The media had hopefully prepared the public by claiming it would be a short speech, some 35 minutes long, mostly just focussing on wanting kinder, compassionate politics. The knives were out and hands hovering over Tablets and i phones, ready to pick holes big enough to bury him in. I was also keen to see how Corbyn would fare, being of course not a public-sector professional or a student, but an ageing self-employed Corbyn supporter.
It is worth remembering that the Conference delegates had booked their places before Corbyn was elected. Would they be for or against him? They managed a standing ovation for Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell’s speech a day earlier so perhaps all would be well.
How wrong the media was. Walking on to a standing ovation and having to beg, “Please, can I start speaking now?” Corbyn spoke for more than an hour.
He had some notes, very occasionally glanced at and pages turned over, and if there was an autocue it wasn’t that apparent. He stumbled over words once or twice, but no matter. This was Corbyn, speaking as he has been speaking to the country for the last three and a half months, but this time reaching out as Leader to the Conference, to all those who voted for him, all those who had their doubts and all those who feared him and the changes that might come. There was passion, anger at the state of the country and the world, and there was hope.
His leadership election campaign had proved that people are hungry for a different form of politics. Labour now has the chance to create those politics; by accepting that even within the Party there would be disagreement, something that should not split the Party; by honest debate not just among MPs but among all Party members; by consulting with and working with the public. A far better version of David Cameron’s ‘boots on the ground’ was being offered.
Sitting in the front row were his Shadow Cabinet. Tom Watson, who doesn’t necessarily agree with Corbyn, but was voted in as Deputy Leader because he is a popular, dependable and dogged campaigner for those things he cares about, displayed a happy smile and clapped a lot. John McDonnell appeared well satisfied with his ‘hard-left firebrand’ comrade in arms.
The surprise was the Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn, son of the famous (or notorious) left-winger Tony Benn. He had served under both Tony Blair (voting for the Iraq invasion, which must have upset his father) and Gordon Brown. He was part of Ed Miliband’s Shadow Cabinet. For some people, that’s a lot of dodgy history. But there he was, applauding like mad and grinning with joy, looking like a ‘born-again’ convert. Has father Tony been tapping his shoulder?
Yes, there were a few who didn’t respond, whose faces were glum, MPs who sat like sad little yesterdays while the hall erupted around them. Gone was the hype and razzmatazz they were used to, the ‘leader’ standing on the stage, one hand raised in triumph while the other clutched the wife.
To a standing ovation Corbyn said, “No, I won’t say any more. I’ve spoken at 37 meetings since Saturday evening – isn’t that enough?” With which he went onto the floor and through the scrum of photographers to hug and shake hands with as many as he could reach, while the applause went on – and on.
Such was the speech that it took some time for the political journalists or ‘Commentariat’ as Corbyn called them, to fight back. Their initial efforts failed. While some of their comments on Twitter were vaguely favourable some were sour and very dismissive:
The Telegraph focussed on “He didn’t mention the deficit!” Could that possibly be because McDonnell had dealt with it in his speech a day earlier? But no – brains don’t work when hatchet jobs are being done.
Another complaint was that he didn’t speak about why Labour lost the last election. Had he done so, they would of course have accused Labour of navel gazing. But he didn’t, being far more focussed on the future. And some said his speech was devoid of policies. Had they already prepared their comments before they heard the speech? Did they even listen?
But how diligent are the diggers of disinformation. Speaking of the inequality that has existed throughout history a key line of Corbyn’s speech was “You don’t have to take what you are given”. Critics were jubilant. They had found something that proved Corbyn had ‘stolen’ part of his speech!He was accused of using words apparently written for Ed Miliband by Richard Heller.
Heller himself says that he wrote these words some time ago and had offered them to every Labour leader since. Having posted them on his blog after Miliband failed to make use of them, he offered them again, to Corbyn. Heller thought what he had written was what Labour should be about. Corbyn obviously agreed and made good use of them. Heller’s comment was: “Jeremy is the first reader who liked it and used it. I’m very glad he’s used it… to say it was stolen or plagiarised is nonsense.” And why, when too many politicians employ speech writers, should Corbyn be castigated for using someone else’s words?
By the following morning even the BBC had to admit Corbyn mentioned several policies, but his ‘failure’ to mention the deficit or the reasons for Labour’s poor election result featured in their news headlines, as did the business of ‘stolen words’.
The trouble for his most venomous critics is twofold. First, they have demonised and caricatured him so relentlessly that expectations are so low that he can’t but get over them. The other is that he became leader by giving speeches like this up and down the country. This is who he is. This is how he won.
The politicos still don’t get it. The public do. After his speech a snap poll by Sky News found that 53 per cent of people said they could imagine him as Prime Minister.
Tom Watson says: “What I want to do . . . is help our new Leader get into Downing Street so that Labour can make Britain a better place. My project is as simple – and difficult – as that.
Again, I’m told everywhere that it can’t be done; again, I say that it can . . .
These leadership elections were a signal that business as usual isn’t working. The way we do politics has to change.
- We’ve got to put members at the centre of our party and the aspirations of ordinary people at the centre of our programme.
- I said I’d overhaul our party organisation and launch a revolution in our digital campaigning. That work starts this afternoon.
- I promised to back our new leader 100% – I plan to do exactly that, and I ask you to do the same. Only through unity can we find the strength we need.
We must harness the power of the 600,000. We can be the force for change the country needs. Don’t let the media tell you otherwise.