Tom Watson sets up 'social democratic' group of Labour MPs to broaden party's appeal

Posted On: 
25th February 2019

Tom Watson is to set up a group of moderate Labour MPs to propose new policies in a bid to broaden the party's electoral appeal.

Tom Watson has urged Jeremy Corbyn to broaden the make-up of his frontbench.
Credit: 
PA Images

In a direct challenge to Jeremy Corbyn, Labour's deputy leader will convene the first meeting of backbenchers from the party's social democratic wing this week.

The move comes after the Labour leader rejected Mr Watson's call for him to promote more up-and-coming MPs from different wings of the party to his frontbench.

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Among the areas the new group is expected to publish policy papers on are social care, housing and the future of education in a world of automation.

Mr Watson - who used an appearance on the Andrew Marr show to call on Mr Corbyn to do more to tackle Labour's anti-semitism crisis - announced the move in a blogpost on his website.

He said: "I called on Jeremy to do more to unite the party and reshuffle the Shadow Cabinet to give greater weight to MPs with social democratic rather than socialist views.

"The need to see Labour as the broad church of its tradition is the main reason why I am convening a group of MPs this week who believe in the party's social democratic tradition to develop policies.

"As I told Marr: 'We’re only electorally successful if those traditions can rub up against each other. Harold Wilson had Tony Benn and Roy Jenkins in his Cabinet, and so that is our challenge'.

"There is almost a crisis for the soul of the Labour party. Everyone that cares about our future - whatever tradition they represent - has to find it within themselves to work more closely together. And that is as big a challenge for Jeremy as it is for me."

It is understood that Mr Watson fears that young Labour MPs who have been overlooked for promotion by Mr Corbyn are becoming increasingly disenchanted.

"They're voices are not being heard on the frontbench," said a source. "This would be about bringing bright, young backbenchers into the policymaking process."

A Labour source said: "We welcome the input of policy ideas from MPs, shadow ministers, party members and members of the public to help develop and advance Labour's hugely popular 2017 manifesto."