EXCL Tom Watson will not speak from main stage at Labour party conference

Posted On: 
10th September 2018

Labour deputy leader Tom Watson will not have a speaking slot on the main stage of the party's upcoming annual conference, PoliticsHome has learned.

Tom Watson says he will speak on the Labour conference fringe instead.
PA Images

In a major break with convention, he will instead speak at fringe meetings rather than in the conference hall.

The decision follows a long-running wrangle over whether Mr Watson, who is also Shadow Culture Secretary, would be allowed to address delegates from the main stage - and highlights the tensions between him and party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

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Labour members will gather in Liverpool for their annual conference in a fortnight and traditionally, the deputy leader is given a speaking slot in the main hall.

But when the conference agenda was published last month, Mr Watson's name was notable by its absence from the official line-up.

After behind-the scenes talks, it was agreed that he would be given a 10-minute slot at the end of business on Monday, 24 September.

It has now emerged that Mr Watson has decided to give that up so that the leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party, Richard Corbett, can speak from the main stage instead.

A spokesperson for Tom Watson said: "There has obviously been great difficulty with the conference agenda this year and Tom felt it was more important for the Leader of the EPLP to have the opportunity to address the conference on Brexit.

"He has therefore requested that the political team in the leader’s office and the Conference Arrangements Committee facilitate this."

But a Labour source said: "The timing of other speeches has no effect on Tom's speech, which is in the timetable - there's no need for him to give up his slot."