As a man who has in the recent past compared the current Deputy Leader of the Labour Party to Stalin, you may have been surprised to read that headline. But with the dust settling on Corbyn’s leadership, while elements of what Watson is looking to achieve may not entirely be my cup of tea, I do see now what he’s trying to do, how he’ll probably suceed, and why it may even be essential.
Tom Watson’s main goal appears to be keeping the Labour Party in one piece during this turbulent period. He may well be he only person on Earth who is capable of doing it. The rare combination of brains and brawn, Watson’s use of both (and knowing where and when to use either) could be invaluable. Of course, he could screw it all up, but I don’t think he will. On the other hand, it may be all too much, even for him to handle.
Already I think we’ve seen an element of the positives Watson can bring to the Corbyn era. He has his fingerprints all over the decision regarding Labour campaigning for Britain to remain in the EU. If we do indeed remain in, Tom Watson may have already played a large part in making that happen – that for which alone he would deserve a token of my praise. From this we can already judge that he wants to have a large hand in everything that happens. Given the likes of McDonnell will want to do the same thing, having Watson as a sane man in the nuthouse may be actually valuable for everyone in the country in some small way.
There is another thing for which Watson deserves praise that no one is going to give him apart from me. This all seems to be mostly selflessly motivated. Some have said that Watson is setting himself up as the next leader with his current machinations; I don’t see how that’s possible, and if I can see that, I’ll guarantee you someone like Watson who knows hundreds of times more about the Labour Party than I ever will can see that as well. His battles with McDonnell will alienate the Left; the fact that he was Corbyn’s deputy will alienate the Right. I think he’s on a suicide mission with the hope that those who stay out of the line of fire now – the Chukas and Jarvis’ of this world – can step in when the time is right.
Obviously, I’ll come clean here and say a big part of me wants the Labour Party to self-destruct and for a new party of the centre-left to rise from the ashes or merge with the Lib Dems, or well, something that is an opposing force to the Conservatives capable of winning a general election to emerge somehow. But we live in weird times and maybe I’ve got the wrong end of the stick. Perhaps in twenty years time, I’ll be saying at one conference or another, “Thank God Tom Watson saved the Labour Party.”