Tom Watson 'concerned' by Labour's struggle to cut through in EU campaign

Posted On: 
1st June 2016

Tom Watson has admitted he is “very concerned” that Labour is failing to get across its pro-EU message ahead of the referendum later this month. 

Tom Watson was elected deputy leader at the same time Jeremy Corbyn became Labour leader.
Credit: 
PA Images

A poll yesterday suggested almost half of Labour voters were not clear that the party was in favour of a Remain vote on 23 June.

Jeremy Corbyn, who has previously spoken out against the European Union, has also faced criticism for not making the case for the EU more vigorously.

Labour voters remain unsure of party's EU referendum position

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Mr Watson defended his party leader but acknowledged Labour was struggling to get its point across as the high-profile split within the Conservative party dominates the campaign agenda.

The Labour deputy leader told Radio 4: “I think people have been very unfair to Jeremy in this debate.

“He’s done speech after speech after speech, visit after visit after visit to make the point that we believe in a Remain vote and that we believe that we need to support the interests of British workers within the EU.

“I think our difficulty is – and it is a genuine difficulty and the challenge is ours, I’m not blaming anybody else for this – that when you have such savage splits in the current government and the Cabinet where people are genuinely slugging it out, it’s hard for us to find a space to create our own message to people about why we believe that people should remain.”

His comments come after John McDonnell warned Labour figures that appearing alongside Conservatives “discredits” the party, and “demotivates the very people we are trying to mobilise”.

Earlier in the week, Sadiq Khan had shared a platform with David Cameron as part of a pro-EU campaign event.

Mr Watson refused to condemn the Mayor of London, but made clear that he would not appear alongside any of the senior Conservatives backing Remain.

“Labour politicians have got to make their own choices on this,” he said.

“I would never share a platform with David Cameron or George Osborne on this because I think that it might be that we share each other’s views that people should remain but our reasons for saying Remain are very different.

“I want Labour’s distinct message that we want to protect the social rights of workers to be part of the debate within the referendum discussion and I hope we can find that space in the next few weeks.”