Tom Watson defends New Labour… and Jeremy Corbyn refuses to clap
Labour's deputy leader delivered a barnstorming conference speech.
Tom Watson has told Labour it needs to stop "trashing" the legacy of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown – but it is not clear that Jeremy Corbyn agrees with him.
Labour's deputy leader was given a standing ovation as he delivered an impassioned defence of the New Labour government.
Corbyn, a frequent critic of the Blair era, remained seated while others on the stage stood in approval and did not applaud that section of the speech.
Watson had said that only a Labour victory in an election could "set Britain free from the Tories".
He added: “You need both good government and a strong private sector to make a successful society. It’s just a fact.
“Look what happens when you get it right: the 11 years of Labour government between 1997 and 2008… A completely unbroken period of economic growth; we made the economy work like never before or since, and we lifted half a million children out of poverty; and lifted a million pensioners out of poverty. We gave millions of low-paid workers the decency of a National Minimum Wage. We introduced a radically reduced redistributive system of tax credits…
“I don’t know why we’ve been focussing on what was wrong with the Blair and Brown governments for the last six years. But trashing our record is not the way to enhance our brand. We won’t win elections like that and we need to win elections.”
Watson also had another passage that appeared to be aimed at Corbyn supporters, in which he advised that capitalism is not the enemy:
“In the past, big businesses were too easily cast as predators. We meant to say that we would stand up to the abuse of corporate power as the Tories never will. But we ended up sounding like we were anti-business; anti-prosperity; anti-success. We’re not and we never have been.
“Capitalism, comrades, is not the enemy. Money’s not the problem. Business isn’t bad. The real world is more complicated than that, as any practical trade unionist will tell you.”
But Watson also savaged the Tories, claiming that they were only interested in money and power.
“Of the real British values the Tories can never understand; of compassion and fairness alongside enterprise and fierce independence. This is no nation of ideologues. We know that and that’s our advantage over the Tories.
“They’re blinded by money and power. It’s all they care about. And the old lady next door; and your neighbour’s children; and that migrant family working 60 hours a week and paying taxes: all these can go hang to the Tories. Other people don’t matter. Well that’s not the British way.”
Picture by: Danny Lawson/PA Wire/Press Association Images.