Labour Deputy Leader Tom Watson admits he has absolutely no involvement in formulating party policy

Jeremy Corbyn Tom WatsonToby Melville / Reuters

LONDON — Labour Deputy Leader Tom Watson has shed more light on the gulf between himself and leader Jeremy Corbyn, claiming he has no involvement whatsoever in formulating party policy.

Speaking to GQ magazine, Watson said “nobody should be any doubt it will be his [Corbyn’s] manifesto” and added that he did not actually know who is on the Labour leader’s strategy committee.

In an interview with former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell, who contributes to the magazine, Watson was asked how often he spoke to Corbyn about party policy and direction.

“I am not on his strategy committee,” the MP for West Bromwich East replied.

Campbell then asked, “Who is then?” to which Watson said, “I don’t know.”

He then expanded: “That is how he is going to lead. That second election means he is the established leader.

“I am in the NEC and in the shadow cabinet but nobody should be in any doubt it will be his manifesto. He will lead in developing those policies and I will support him.”

The difficult working relationship between the pair has been well-documented ever since both were elected in 2015. Watson led calls for Corbyn to resign in the summer, and at one stage during the internal chaos was actively being blocked from holding a face-to-face meeting with Corbyn by the leader’s aides, according to various reports.

At the party’s Liverpool conference in September, Watson responded to a pro-Corbyn heckler by saying Jeremy, I don’t think she got the unity memo.” It was a humorous moment, but one that illustrated the divide that existed between the Corbynista wing of Labour and the party’s moderates, currently fronted by Watson.

Watson also told Campbell that he believes Corbyn will lead Labour into the next general election, whether it be in 2020 as currently scheduled or instead brought forward by a snap election.

When asked if that was a “good thing or a bad thing”, Watson said: “It doesn’t matter, that is the situation.

“I made my position clear, gave private counsel, based on the fact it was difficult to lead without the confidence of a majority of MPs, but he took a different view, the membership backed him and we have to respect that.”

Corbyn is under renewed pressure to turn the party’s fortunes around after a report produced by affiliated think tank The Fabian Society said it had effectively no chance of winning a majority government at the next election.

The party also continues to suffer in the poll, with YouGov’s latest survey put Labour 14% behind the Tories.

This is disastrous for Corbyn and his party, as recent analysis suggests that Labour needs to be leading by at least 12.5% to have any realistic chance of forming a majority government. That is a net gulf of nearly 30% to reverse.

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