Tom Watson says he fears ‘the Labour party is leaving me’ amid push for party to back second referendum

Posted On: 
17th June 2019

Tom Watson has said he fears "Labour is leaving me" as he called on the party to campaign for Remain in a second EU referendum.

Relations are strained between Tom Watson and Jeremy Corbyn.
Credit: 
PA

Labour's deputy leader also warned that the party would pay a "very high electoral price" if it did not commit to overturn Brexit.

Mr Watson has sought to pile pressure on Jeremy Corbyn to change the party's current policy, which is to push for a general election but also promise a referendum on any Brexit deal voted for by MPs.

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Asked by the BBC if he consider quitting Labour if he fails, he said: "The Labour party is in me. I've been I've been a member since my 15th birthday, the first day I could join.

"I'm never gonna leave the Labour party. I mean sometimes I wonder whether the Labour party is leaving me. But no - I love the Labour Party, I love its members, and what I'm gonna do is campaign for the issues that I feel very strongly about and in politics you win some, you lose some."

In response to Mr Watson' speech, Labour chairman Ian Lavery tweeted his opposition to any attempts to overturn the result of the 2016 referendum.

He said: "Brexit has turned this country into a toxic nation. However ignoring the 17.4m Leave voters isn’t politically smart nor indeed particularly democratic. Is it?"

Mr Watson acknowledged Labiour “certainly might lose some votes” if they change position, but he added: “There will be a very high electoral price to pay if Labour doesn't have a clear position whether it's for Remain or for Leave.”

He added: “We don't question people's motive. My motive is that it is the best interest of the country, best interest of millions of Labour supporters and workers. So please question my motive.

“You may disagree with me fundamentally and I respect that. I think for the Labour party having knocked on doors up and down the country in the local and European elections, having spoken to many thousands of Labour voters, many of whom are lifelong Labour party members who told me they were voting for the parties at the election because of the lack of clarity on our position.

“I think the electorally smart thing to do is to listen to our members.”

'I'M NOT SAYING THIS IS THE ONLY WAY THROUGH'

Mr Watson said he had “no doubt” Labour’s position will change at the party's conference in September, but said he feared “by then it will be too late”.

“Look I'm not I'm not saying this is the only way through”, he added. “It's my view it's the likely way through.

"You know I've been in politics a long time, I've been in Parliament nearly 20 years, I've never seen such low morale I've never seen such division and I think on current parliamentary arithmetic no matter how hard people try, and they have tried, we’re just not going to find a solution, a deal, a compromise, that enjoys a majority in the House of Commons - not just in triggering the legislation but in the whole of the process.

“And in those circumstances the Labour Party was right; you either resolve it at a general election where a new government can come into place, you can end up with a working majority although of course you might end up with more stasis, or you can have a very clear agreed process to make the agreement around a people's vote.”