Tom Watson saved from the axe as Jeremy Corbyn announces 'review' of Labour deputy leader post

Posted On: 
21st September 2019

Jeremy Corbyn has stepped in to save Tom Watson from the axe after Jon Lansman tried to scrap the post of Labour deputy leader.

Tom Watson and Jeremy Corbyn.
Credit: 
PA Images

In a major humiliation for the Momentum boss, Mr Corbyn instead announced a "review" of the post in a bid to prevent the party's annual conference descending into civil war.

Mr Lansman had launched his shock attempt to remove Mr Watson - with the support of the powerful Unite union - at a meeting of Labour's ruling national executive committee on Friday night.

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He told the meeting that the deputy leader's "disloyalty" over Brexit meant his role should be scrapped.

Although he failed to get the number of quotes required to pass the motion, it was put on the agenda for another NEC meeting on Saturday morning.

Ahead of that gathering, Mr Watson accused the Momentum chief of trying to carry out a "a sectarian attack on a broad church party".

Labour MPs also condemned the move, as did the leaders of the Unison, GMB and TSSA trade unions.

In an attempt to defuse the row, Mr Corbyn stepped with a compromise which will see Mr Watson remain in his post, at least in the short-term.

A Labour party source said: "Jeremy Corbyn proposed that the motion not go to a vote and instead that there be a review of the position of deputy leader and other positions in support of the leader.

"This will consider how democratic accountability can be strengthened to give members a greater say, expanding the number of elected positions, and how diverse representation can be further improved. The NEC agreed to his proposal."

Shortly afterwards, Mr Watson tweeted: "This move from Jon Lansman has backfired spectacularly. It has bolstered my support within the PLP and been strongly criticised in the media. Any positive message from conference will now be drowned out by this furore. Good job Jon."

The row threatened to overshadow Labour's five-day conference in Brighton, at which the party is already facing major clashes over Brexit.

In particular, critics were pointing the finger at Karie Murphy, Mr Corbyn's chief of staff, and Unite boss Len McCluskey for the botched attempt to unseat Mr Watson.

One leading backbencher told PoliticsHome: "Pre-election conference ruined. Momentum brand tarnished. Speculation about Jeremy’s retirement and succession. Splits in Jeremy's office, trade unions and between hard left factions. An emboldened PLP winning trigger ballots. All with Tom guaranteed to be in place throughout and after a general election, one which we are much more likely to lose because of these shenanigans. A triumph for Karie, Len and Jon."