The Tom Watson/Jeremy Corbyn feud has claimed its first conference victim: a female deputy leader. Plans to create a new deputy leader role specifically for a female have been dropped this morning at the last minute after Corbyn’s team grew nervous – and blame is being placed firmly with his deputy Tom Watson.
When the role was first thought up, it was seen as a way to undermine Watson – a man who has firmly fallen out of favour with the Corbyn regime – while also scoring some points politically for promoting women. After all, Labour are behind the Tories on gender equality here thanks to the fact they have never had a female leader.
However, I understand things started to go wrong for the Corbynistas when Tom Watson actually got on board with the idea. In what was widely perceived to be trolling of the Leader’s Office, Watson used a conference interview to say he thought the role was a brilliant idea and he went further – no doubt, he said, Corbyn would eventually step aside and make way for this woman to become leader. That sent alarm bells to the Leader’s Office that the role could actually undermine Corbyn rather than Watson. ‘It wasn’t turning out as they hoped,’ explains one Labour source. ‘There were concerns that the narrative would be when will this person become leader.’
And so it is that today a motion has been withdrawn by Wirral West CLP. There could still be a vote on it according to sources but few think it would pass. This will go down badly with Labour’s feminists – not to mention the women who were mooted to run including Emily Thornberry, Dawn Butler and Angela Rayner.
One thing is clear: reports of Tom Watson’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.