The deputy leader’s wing of the party has failed and his decision to stand down is the inevitable resultby Chaminda Jayanetti / November 7, 2019 / Leave a comment
Few political reputations have been shredded quite so comprehensively in recent years as Tom Watson’s reputation as a backroom fixer who mastered Labour’s internal machinery. His sudden departure last night was that of a man who had been comprehensively outmanoeuvred for four years by the people who weren’t supposed to be good at politics. The man who initiated the moves that brought down Tony Blair surrendered to the might of Magic Grandpa.
There is much that can be written about the rise of Momentum and the role of the membership in seeing off Owen Smith’s leadership challenge in 2016—Smith, of course, is also quitting parliament.
But just as the rise of the centrists began with the collapse of Old Labour’s political economy in 1976, the reverse is also true. The decline of the Labour centrists began not with Iraq—though that became the common stick to beat them with—but with the collapse of Northern Rock in 2007 which marked the beginning of the swift end of Blairite political economy.
Corbynsceptics are a broad group, spanning centrist Blairites and more left-leaning social democrats, social liberals and social conservatives, Leavers and Remainers. Some, like Blair himself, oppose Corbyn on all grounds; others on grounds of foreign policy and anti-semitism; others simply because they consider him unelectable.
What unites them all is their comprehensive failure—not simply to outmanoeuvre Corbyn’s allies inside the party and on the ruling National Executive Committee, but more fundamentally to outline a better politics that people might actually sign up to.
It’s worth recapping this decade in Labour politics. The 2010 election saw Blairite princeling David Miliband take on his social democrat brother Ed. Ed won; the Blairites spent the next five years throwing an enormous strop that their man had lost.
But while Ed clearly wanted to push Labour in a new direction, he lacked the bottle or skill to actually do it. Instead he ended up triangulating over austerity in a way that convinced no-one—least of all the British public. Meanwhile Blairites demanded ever-more obedience to Tory doctrines of austerity. Never forget that disability benefit tests, the hallmark of Tory cruelty, were introduced under New Labour.
The 2015 leadership election was the absolute nadir of…