There was an article in the Evening Standard last night regarding the unions choice for next Labour leader. In case you didn’t see the feature, I shall not keep you in suspense any longer: apparently they want Watson to be next in line should Corbyn “fail”. Most of this conjecture is based around Len McCluskey and Tom Watson being spotted together having a drink in a pub in Kennington after a huge row had taken place in the Commons involving Labour backbenchers. I will say the following two things: one, the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party and the General Secretary of Unite having a pint together isn’t nearly enough of a singular event to start making wild speculations regarding leadership plots around, and two, the timing having come after some row within the PLP falls into this category as well, seeing as they happen every day now.
But let’s say it’s true. And it very well could be: Watson is close to McCluskey, and I could see Tom being turned to as the proverbial “safe pair of hands” should Corbyn flee Britain in a dinghy, having been asked one too many completely normal, predictable, everyday questions by the press. However, should this whole thing come to pass, it would present with it a chain of very complicated problems.
One, McDonnell would also want to be leader and would position himself as the darling of the Left. Watson, despite getting union backing, couldn’t realistically out-left the shadow chancellor (Leon Trotsky would struggle). So you could have a situation in which Watson faces off against McDonnell, with Watson having union backing despite McDonnell being the genuine leftie. This would pit Momentum and the whole, increasing large left of Labour effectively against the trade unions themselves for the future of the party. And the right of the party would back – Watson? If not, they are left in the cold for another however long; if so, then it’s McDonnell and the Left on one side, versus Watson, the unions and the right of the party on the other. If you think what’s happening within Labour now is fractious, that set-up is a whole other league down the political hell tables. Who knows where all of that could lead, but none of it would be good – unless you happen to be a Tory, of course.
All of which people within the Labour Party, no doubt Tom Watson and Len McCluskey included, two men who know more about the inner-workings of the Labour Party than I will ever come close to knowing, are no doubt already wise to. Which means what then? Answer: they stick with Jeremy Corbyn no matter what. The “fail” fails to materialise. And Jeremy is going nowhere of his own accord. You know, I think I finally get why Labour are so bad at regicide: there are always so many strange factions that can arise, so many wars with strange bedfellows to be had, that they always figure it’s better to stick with the devil you know. Between Corbyn and the deep blue sea – yikes.
Your assumption is that the ‘Unions’ are one thing. I would suggest that recently the Trident debate created fissures in that. The leadership debate in Unite also created divisions between the leader and the leadership. But your basic premise that Watson would be the power broker for sanity is astute.