Tom Watson urges MPs to keep calm… as Nicola Sturgeon hails ‘historic’ victory

Written by David Singleton on 6 May 2016 in Diary

Labour's deputy leader said Jeremy Corbyn was not wholly responsible for the party's election woes.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has celebrated a third successive victory for her party in Scottish Parliament elections, while Labour was beaten into third place in Scotland.

The SNP won another term in power - but fell just short of securing a majority of MSPs. The triumph ensures that Sturgeon will remain first minister but facing the prospect of a minority administration or potentially making a coalition deal with the Greens.

Speaking after her victory in Glasgow Southside, Sturgeon said: “We have tonight made history. It is a vote of confidence of in the record in government of the SNP and it is a vote of trust in the SNP to lead our country forward. We in the SNP will always stand up for Scotland. And tonight Scotland has stood with us.

“In closing tonight, I want to make a pledge to every single person in our country. To seek and to win a mandate and the first minister of our country is a special and very precious thing.

“I pledge that I will govern in the interest of everyone, of every person in Scotland and every community the length and breadth of our country. I want to thank people across our country, those who voted SNP, those who did not vote SNP and say very clearly, that I will lead this country with confidence, courage, with ambition, with imagination.”

As the SNP took 63 of 129 seats, Labour's misery north of the border continued. The party slumped to third place behind the Tories for the first time since devolution in 1999.

Meanwhile, the party’s national deputy leader Tom Watson insisted it was not possible to “draw simple conclusions” from the local election results across the UK. He told the Today programme:

“There is definitely cause for comfort with those local government results in England. If you look at the Crawleys or the Redditch, or Harlow, or Southampton. Yes these there local conditions but these are still going to be the electoral battlegrounds for the 2020 general election.”

Watson also urged Labour MPs conspiring against Jeremy Corbyn to respect the leader’s mandate from party members.

Asked what he would say to colleagues who are frustrated by Corbyn leadership, Watson said: “MPs are very important leaders within the Labour party, but our members lead the Labour party now. The one thing Jeremy and I agree on very strongly is that we want a member-led party. He was elected with a very strong mandate only eight months ago.

“Even our opponents would say that after eight months it would be very unfair and improper to hang this set of election results on Jeremy Corbyn’s peg alone. After only eight months people would say he needs more time to show the direction Labour needs to take to win that 2020 general election.”

The deputy leader’s warning comes as a Labour backbencher launched a stinging attack on Corbyn and the direction of the party under his stewardship.

Neil Coyle, MP for Southwark and Bermondsey, criticised the leadership for focusing on “peripheral” issues and taking Labour further away from a victory at the 2020 election.

The Labour MP also expressed his regret at nominating Corbyn for the Labour leadership last summer. He told BBC Newsnight: “I nominated Jeremy because I wanted to broaden the debate and unfortunately the debate hasn’t been particularly broad. It’s been fixated on peripheral issues that aren’t of relevance to the day-to-day lives of the doors I knock in Bermondsey and Southwark.

"And I kind of regret the fact that today we seem to be moving backwards, seem to be moving back beyond Ed Miliband’s first years as Labour leader, which then led to a general election defeat. So if we’ve fallen back on that, then I can’t do anything but regret on that nomination. And that’s a very sad position to be, there is still time to turn that around, we need that unity in the team and we need to be building the policy platform that brings voters back to Labour."

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