Peter Bingle: It's time for Tom Watson to show us what he is made of

Written by Peter Bingle on 20 March 2017 in Opinion

Labour's deputy leader has blown apart the illusion of an uneasy unity between himself and Jeremy Corbyn.

Following the release of unguarded comments by Jon Lansman about his plans to do a deal with Unite to secure Corbyn's legacy Tom Watson has gone on the offensive. The trouble is profound but simple : Is he serious or is he just full of hot air?

Labour is doing a Usain Bolt towards electoral annihilation whenever the next election is called. That is one of the few modern givens in modern politics. The question that needs answering is whether Watson and his mates will stand by and simply watch it happen or will they strike now and try to mitigate the damage.

Over the last few months Tom Watson has given the appearance to friends and foes alike of somebody who has given up the fight. He clearly enjoys the DCMS brief which requires very little effort but guarantees lots of invitations to nice events. We may soon see whether he is really prepared to put in the effort to fight for what he believes in.

Tom Watson is not the most obvious candidate to ask for unity. Even amongst the most loyal supporters of Gordon Brown he was never trusted. He was born a plotter and to this day he is surrounded by suspicion rather than unanimity.

Yet Watson is the only senior Labour Party figure who could potentially take on Corbyn, McDonnell and the comrades. He understands the problems which the party needs to address and accepts the need to deal with them. Yet there is a nagging suspicion about whether he is prepared to put in the effort. Is he another Alan Johnson? Worse, is he just a moaner from the sidelines?

Having lit the fuse wire, Tom Watson must now decide what to do next. He has blown apart the illusion of an uneasy unity. The media and social media are now awash with stories about Labour's impending civil war. Labour MPs who were depressed are now suicidal. The question is whether Tom Watson has the political equivalent of testicles or whether he is an exuberant castrati?

Tom Watson will never be a unifying figure in the Labour Party. I am very fond of him but am not sure that is helpful to his cause. I don't believe he is particularly popular with the Labour Party, it's activists and members and most voters have no idea who he is ...

Yet for the moment he is the Labour Party's best bet. Little wonder Tories are feeling so bullish. The chances of the modern Labour Party imploding increase by the hour ...

Does Tom Watson have the political courage to take on Corbyn and the comrades or is he just a commentator? Is he prepared to go in for the kill like Orestes?


About the author

Peter Bingle is a lobbyist and a former Conservative councillor.

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