Courtesy of the Times.
Tom Watson, the Labour deputy leader, is poised to change the face of politics by pulling together 50 or more disaffected colleagues to create the third biggest group in the Commons. If it works, the move would dwarf the Independent Group, launched last week and cement Mr Watson’s reputation as a fixer, influencer and Labour power broker. More important, it would nudge the centre of gravity in Her Majesty’s Opposition a bit further away from the socialist purism of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell and a bit closer towards the social democratic and Christian democratic tradition that dominated for 30 years under the stewardship of leaders from Neil Kinnock to Ed Miliband.
Yet even for some MPs who are ideologically aligned with Mr Watson, the plan for a new group of “social democrats” within Labour, complete with its meetings, policy work, possibly spokesmen and even separate whipping arrangements goes too far — and the idea may not take off.
On Thursday morning, Mr Watson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the new group was necessary. “For very understandable reasons to do with the challenge to Jeremy a couple of years ago and some MPs not wanting to serve, we’ve not got a balance of the traditions on our frontbench,” he said. “We can handle that but it does mean there needs to be a different way of making sure those traditions, their voice, is expressed in a different way on policy making.” He added: “I’m hoping to bring together next week to essentially find out how their voice can be heard in the policy making process.”
The Times understands that this meeting will not now happen next week, in a move that could fuel critics and sceptics. One person familiar with his thinking said the delay was because he “wants time to prepare properly, get invites out, ensure a good attendance”. There is no doubting the scale of ambition. Some hope more than 50 Labour MPs would be part of this new movement. With strength in numbers, the plan would be to borrow some of the tactics used by Mr Corbyn and Mr McDonnell when they were marginalised in the Blair and Brown years. “The campaign group [which Corbyn and McDonnell were part of] had their own meetings and their own whip. Why shouldn’t we do the same,” said one enthusiast for the Watson project. Supporters say that Mr Watson’s efforts are even healing some of the fissures evident ever since Gordon Brown and Tony Blair were in government together — enmities that endured after Mr Corbyn was elected.
There is no doubt that the project, which has unnerved some around Mr Corbyn, is designed to help stem further defections. “Many of us couldn’t join [the Independent Group] because they are centrists without the belief in social democratic politics,” said one Blairite MP. Discussions have been going on for months, though Mr Watson’s specific initiative is a response to the schism a fortnight ago. Success is not assured, however, with many nervous that the new group poses too much of an overt challenge to Mr Corbyn. “We already have the Tribune group to do something similar,” said one senior Labour figure. “My own sense is there isn’t a lot of appetite for more splinters and more factions. If Tom’s going to do this, the challenge is to set it up in a way that avoids that pitfall,” said a significant Labour MP. Another added: “It won’t work — people running from it see it as a front for a second wave of desertions.” A long-term Watson ally said there wasn’t an appetite for a mass breakaway but said the goal was keeping Labour together. “What you’re watching is a pretty high-stakes game of poker.”
as I see it the way its going, there will not be a ruling party . but a bunch of groups with there own agenda how things should be done,
No the blue rinse brigade will go on supporting there lol
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keith, several more blues are considering joining the indipendants.
I have always considered the concept of political parties, tied to an ideology and thought-controlled by an oligarchy at their apex, to be anti-democratic. Whether the ‘parties within parties’ model of parliamentary operation is more or less so, I have not yet fully worked out. Anyone care to have a go? Captain Haddock? Answers on the back of a fag packet please.
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