LABOUR’S deputy leader Tom Watson has said the plot to oust him has undermined the party with its top brass descending into civil war.
Mr Watson, speaking today after he arrived in Brighton for its annual conference, lashed out at Momentum leader Jon Lansman after a bid to oust the deputy failed.
Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, whose allies staged the attempt, arrives at Labour’s annual conference as it opens in Brighton[/caption]
He said: We’ve had a bad start to our conference, I can’t do anything about that.
“I think it’s very sad. We are supposed to be here this week to fight Boris Johnson, to outline our positive vision for the country at a general election, and I think it’s been undermined on day one.
“I’m particularly disappointed with Jon Lansman the boss of Momentum, because I think he’s not just undermined me, I think he’s undermined Jeremy (Corbyn), I think he’s undermined the party and frankly I think he’s undermined the Momentum delegates who are here this week because they want to talk about a positive alternative for the country as well.”
He added: “I think it says there are some people who don’t think clear-headedly, who risk us having a transformative government by playing sectarian games.
“I put Jon Lansman in that category and I think it’s very sad because I think he has undermined himself and the members of his organisation, many of whom have been in touch with me today and said they were not consulted when he did that and they were very disappointed with him personally.
Speaking earlier to BBC Radio 4 about the attempt to overthrow him, he said: “These kind of things happen in Venezuela, not in UK politics.”
Earlier, Mr Watson blasted the “surprise” news after a motion was tabled at a meeting of Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) late on Friday night.
The motion was brought by Mr Lansman but failed to gain the two-thirds majority required.
Mr Watson told the BBC this morning that Corbyn could put a stop to the move if he wanted to – and hours later the NEC confirmed it would “review” the role instead of immediately abolishing it.
It means the deputy’s position is saved for now.
A 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.”
Mr Watson earlier revealed his shock and how he had not been given a chance to defend himself because he was taking care of his 14-year-old son.
He said: “Many of us were taken by surprise by [last night’s vote].
“It wasn’t on the agenda of the meeting.
“There was no warning.
“I got a text message in a Chinese restaurant in Manchester to say they were abolishing me.
“It was a complete surprise.”
CORBYN DECLINES TO OFFER FULL CONFIDENCE
Arriving in Brighton today, where Labour’s annual conference is underway, Mr Corbyn refused to say if he had confidence in Mr Watson.
Asked whether his deputy had his full support, he said: “Tom Watson is the deputy leader of the party and I enjoy working with him.”
Speaking ahead of his own arrival at the conference, Mr Watson said: “This conference is supposed to a platform for what could be a general election in six weeks.
“[This was] a straight sectarian attack on a broad church party.
“And it’s moving us into a different kind of institution, where pluralism isn’t tolerated, where factional observance has to be adhered to completely.
“And it completely goes against the tradition that the Labour Party has had for 100 years.
“I look at the days when Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were leader and there was room for Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell to have dissenting voices.”
Speaking this morning, former prime minister Tony Blair also hit out at the “dangerous” oust plot.
He said: “A decision to abolish the post of Deputy Leader would be undemocratic, damaging and politically dangerous.
“The Labour Party has always contained different views within it and the Deputy Leader’s position has been one way of accommodating such views.
“Getting rid of it would be a signal that such pluralism of views was coming to an end despite being cherished throughout Labour’s history.”
Former leader Ed Miliband said those responsible had “taken leave of their senses”.
SECOND OUSTING THREAT
Mr Corbyn is already facing criticism for declining to intervene in an ongoing attempt by far-left activists to oust former deputy leader Harriet Harman from her constituency seat.
Figures within Ms Harman’s constituency have told her she will face a pro-Corbyn challenger if she doesn’t withdraw from the race to replace John Bercow as Commons speaker.
Convention dictates that sitting speakers do not face challenges within their constituency seats at general elections.
MCDONNELL: 'LABOUR'S NEXT LEADER SHOULD BE A WOMAN'
The next leader of the Labour Party should be a woman, shadow chancellor John McDonnell has said.
Mr McDonnell was an ally of Jeremy Corbyn in parliament for decades before Corbyn’s surprise win in the 2015 leadership election.
He has long been tipped as a possible replacement for after Corbyn steps down, but has now ruled himself out.
Speaking to the Times, McDonnell said: “If Jeremy got hit by the No 57 bus, or whatever it is, there’s the next generation coming through.
“And the reality is the next leader should be a woman. It’s high time to have a woman.”
He went on to name a number of possible female candidates currently serving in the shadow cabinet.
“Becky (Long Bailey), Angie (Rayner), Emily (Thornberry), you name it. Dawn Butler… They’ve just been fantastic,” he said.
Rebecca Long-Baily and Angela Rayner both entered parliament at the 2015 election and are the current shadow secretaries for business and education.
Emily Thornberry and Dawn Butler became MPs in 2005 and currently serve as the shadow first secretary of state and shadow secretary for woman and equalities.
The Labour Party has previously used a number of measures to increase female representation in parliament, including all-women candidate shortlists.
Of Labour’s 247 current MPs, 112 are women.
Asked about the threat, Mr Corbyn said members in the constituency of Camberwell and Peckham, where Ms Harman is the sitting MP, were entitled to “express a point of view”.
He told ITV News London: “I don’t interfere in the running of local parties.”
Senior Labour backbencher Dame Margaret Hodge, said: “It is a tenet of our parliamentary democracy that the Speaker sits above the party-political fray and the leader of the Labour Party, who had been in parliament for decades, should know that and understand that and uphold it.”
‘THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS IN VENEZUELA’
Mr Watson has been at odds with the leader’s office for much of his time as deputy leader, and has been a critic of Mr Corbyn’s handling of issues including antisemitism within the party and Brexit.
He expressed concern about what the attempt to oust him means for the future of democracy within the Labour Party.
“I was elected by the members,” he said.
“If people want to remove me, let the members remove me, rather than having a secret paper at a meeting at last minute.
“These kind of things happen in Venezuela.
“They shouldn’t be happening in the United Kingdom.
“And what worries me is that it’s not really about me.
“We’ve seen centre-left MPs targeted by Momentum for deselections in the last month.
“It’s narrowing the base of reach that the Labour Party has.
MOST READ IN NEWS
“That’s not just bad for people who want to see a Labour government.
“It’s actually bad for our democracy.
“How can a century-old institution come to this? That you abolish the deputy leader in secret.”
We pay for your stories! Do you have a story for The Sun Online news team? Email us at [email protected] or call 0207 782 4368 . You can WhatsApp us on 07810 791 502. We pay for videos too. Click here to upload yours.