Watson’s resignation. Fascinating. What does it mean?

John Rentoul

maelstrom 300x199 Watsons resignation. Fascinating. What does it mean?Tom Watson’s resignation is very important, only no one knows why.

Watson is a great paradox. The evil Brownite who brought down the finest Labour Prime Minister but also a genuinely nice bloke. Often attributed with superhuman powers of fixing things, he has failed to fix a high position for himself.

I was told a year or so ago that he wanted to be deputy leader of the party. What he ended up with was deputy chairman of the Labour Party and membership of the shadow cabinet. And now he is a backbench Labour MP.

The important sentence in his colourful resignation letter is this one:

I offered my resignation on Tuesday and you asked me to reconsider.

This was obviously designed to pre-empt the suggestion that Ed Miliband had sacked him, as urged by Dan Hodges on Monday. It was, as one shadow minister told me, “disloyal”. A want of loyalty to the Labour leader that Watson has displayed before.

As a Blairite, I can only assume that Watson’s departure will be beneficial to the Labour Party in the long run. But its immediate effect is simply to reinforce the image of Ed Miliband – already seriously alarming much of the Parliamentary Labour Party – that he is a weak leader.

Picture of Labour’s chances at the next election from Our Beautiful World

Further reading: Michael Deacon’s comment on Watson’s letter; Ed Miliband’s reply.

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  • Junius

    Only yesterday Ed Miliband was prepared to say he would take Tom Watson over Andy Coulson any day and would ‘…far rather have Tom Watson working for me who led the campaign on the phone hacking scandal than have brought Andy Coulson into the heart of Downing Street.’ That was before Ed’s briefing notes were accidentally left in the Commons toilets, of course. Small wonder he was looking flushed at PMQs.

    Come 2015, the voters could be faced with the choice of electing a Tory government with a PM in thrall to Bone’s Barmies, or a Labour government with a PM under the heel of the trades union barons. I shall be saved from experiencing the discomfort of the horns of a dilemma by voting for the incumbent Lib-Dem who has proved a hard-working constituency MP. Otherwise, for the first time ever, I would seriously consider not visiting the polling station at all.

  • Pacificweather

    It is a terrible dilemma that we sometimes have to face. We disapprove of the party’s actions or inactions in government but we approve of a thoroughly decent MP who we know, when whipped, will vote against his or her constituent’s best interest. I once broke the habit of a lifetime to vote for a Conservative MEP who was decent, hard working and loathed his more right wing colleagues.

    My current MP is very active for his constuents but he gets only a few more votes than the previous incumbent who was a bone idle crook.

    One of the advantages of the party list voting system is that you never have that dilemma. Parties are judged solely on their record. It is what the party does and what it stands for that gets it elected or not, no trading on the good will generated by individual MPs to get it out of trouble.

  • David_Boothroyd

    The title of this blog entry reminded me of Talleyrand’s question about the death of the Turkish ambassador. Don’t know if that was intentional.

  • reformist lickspittle

    It doesn’t show anything of the sort, John.

    Watson has genuine regard for Miliband, as his letter made abundantly clear.

  • newfriendofed

    Not sure about that. The letter sounded sarcastic to me: Is Buddha-like calm really a compliment?

  • reformist lickspittle

    Miliband’s “Zen-like calm” has been remarked upon more than once by his aides. I am pretty sure Watson was aware of this in what he wrote ;)

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