Sat, 2 December 2023

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Momentum boss Jon Lansman launches bid to axe Labour deputy leader post over Tom Watson 'disloyalty'

3 min read

Momentum boss Jon Lansman has launched a bid to axe the post of Labour deputy leader because of Tom Watson's "disloyalty" over Brexit.

In a shock move, he tabled an emergency motion at a meeting of Labour's ruling national executive committee on the eve of the party's annual conference in Brighton.

Mr Watson, who is a member of the NEC, could not attend the meeting for childcare reasons and was assured there was nothing "controversial" on the agenda.

But Mr Lansman told the meeting that Mr Watson's calls for Labour to unequivocally back Remain in any future EU referendum meant his post had to go.

The motion was passed by 17 votes to 10 thanks to the support of NEC delegates representing major trade unions Unite and the CWU.

Because it failed to achieve the two-thirds majority required, the motion did not pass.

However, it will be on the agenda for a meeting of the NEC on Saturday morning, when it will only need a simple majority of 50% plus one.

If it passes, the motion will then be voted on by the full Labour conference on Saturday afternoon.

With supporters of Jeremy Corbyn making up the majority of delegates, it would almost certainly be passed, meaning the post of deputy leader would be axed for the first time in Labour party history.

A Labour source said: "If you thought the Tories were bad, at least they only expel people - they don't abolish entire posts.

"The party has existed for over 100 years, and in all that time it has always had a deputy leader. It's incredible that they want to now abolish the job because the current incumbent doesn't agree with the leader on Brexit.

"It just shows how little the far left care about the way the party looks to the wider nation."

Relations between Mr Watson and Jeremy Corbyn have completely broken down, and the pair rarely speak.

Earlier this month, the deputy leader angered the leader's office by insisting Labour should back a second EU referendum ahead of a general election, and campaign for Remain.

In a speech, he said: "There is no such thing as a good Brexit deal, which is why I believe we should advocate for Remain. That is what the overwhelming majority of Labour party members, MPs and trade unions believe.

"My experience on the doorstep tells me most of those who’ve deserted us over our Brexit policy did so with deep regret and would greatly prefer to come back; they just want us to take an unequivocal position that whatever happens we’ll fight to remain, and to sound like we mean it.

"It would be easy to be 400,000 voices sounding like we mean it, because we do. And if we did it we could win, whereas if we don’t I fear we won’t."

Mr Corbyn has said that if Labour win the next election, they would negotiate a new Brexit deal and put it to a referendum, in which he would not campaign for either side.

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