Tom Watson’s resignation from the shadow Cabinet won’t draw a line under the row about Unite’s influence over Labour. But, rather, it will escalate it.
This is now a serious enough issue to have drawn a shadow Cabinet resignation. Watson’s self-indulgent resignation letter makes clear that he’s going partly because of Blairite criticism. As he puts it, ‘There are some who have not forgiven me for resigning in 2006’. This puts the whole Blairite / Brownite narrative back at the heart of Labour politics. It is a reminder that a party does something awful to its soul when it removes a totemic, election winning Prime Minister mid-term.
I also suspect Watson’s departure will make those around Len McCluskey feel under pressure. If they lash out, things could get bloody.
Watson quitting will be a relief to many of those around Ed Miliband. In the column this week, I explain that they worried about Watson’s work rate and priorities. Even before this week, they didn’t want to have Watson running the general election campaign in 2015.
The Tories are delightedly spinning that the fact that Watson has gone despite Ed Miliband asking him to stay proves that Miliband is weak. Watson’s departure, and in these circumstances, certainly makes this one of the worst weeks Miliband has had as Labour leader. He desperately needs to change the debate before his party’s jitters turn into a full mid-term wobble.