Decca Aitkenhead has a history of producing revelatory August interviews that make tricky reading for the Labour leadership. Her 2008 interview with Alistair Darling involved the journalist following him around during the August recess and unleashed the ‘forces of hell’ against the then Chancellor when it was published.
Her interview with Tom Watson in today’s Guardian fits in with that tradition. Watson argues that there is no case for Unite to answer over Falkirk:
Watson thinks on all three counts his party got it wrong.
“I thought it was silly to report the allegations to the police, bordering on wasting police time.” The whole affair, he insists, is “a storm in a teacup”, since neither Murphy nor Unite did anything wrong. No one in Falkirk was signed up to Labour without their consent.
Is he saying the entire scandal never happened? “I am. I don’t believe it. The reports in the press are wrong. Karie has told me she doesn’t believe that anyone working on her campaign within Unite signed up people without their knowledge, and I believe her. I think a huge injustice has been done to her. When they complete this inquiry they will find she hasn’t done anything wrong.”
He also tells Aitkenhead that Labour should change its position on an EU referendum and call for an early vote at the same time as next year’s European elections, something that will cause further ructions in a shadow cabinet already split on the issue. And, just for good measure, he fires a shot over the party’s economic credibility, saying Labour should admit that they let financial markets get out of control so that voters don’t ‘blame the 2008 crash on our profligate spending’. He clearly doesn’t want to leave Ed Miliband in a zen-like trance for too long.
But his attack on the way the party handled Falkirk means that it will struggle to do anything other than publish the report into what happened in that selection. The stakes appear to be very high indeed: the report is being kept under lock and key by the party to the extent that Unite officials had to read it in a special room but were not allowed to take copies away with them. But the longer that report remains locked in its special room, the longer this row will persist.Tags: Falkirk, Labour, Tom Watson, UK politics, Unite