Tom Watson takes on Momentum - and gets accused of being 'rather right wing'

Written by David Singleton on 20 March 2017 in News
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Labour's deputy leader is furious about a 'hard left plan to control the Labour party'.

Tensions between Labour’s warring factions have reached boiling point with the party’s deputy leader warning of "a battle for the future existence of the Labour party".

Tom Watson spoke out on the Today programme amid reports that Momentum is hoping to get financial support from the Unite union as a way to consolidate its power in the party.

Momentum chief Jon Lansman was recorded saying that if Len McCluskey was re-elected as Unite general secretary, the union would affiliate to his group rather than to Labour.

In the recording obtained by The Observer, he went on to tell activists it was "absolutely crucial" that they secured a change to the party's rules to ensure that a left wing contender can replace Corbyn when he stands down.

A furious Watson told the Today programme that enough was enough

"Jon Lansman outlined a hard left plan to control the Labour party after Jeremy’s departure… I regard this as a battle for the future existence of the Labour party. This is high stakes, and I hope my fellow members are going to understand that, and our leader."

And he suggested that Jeremy Corbyn needed to take action.

"I'm not sure if Jeremy knows there is a secret plan and I will be raising it with him todayI’m afraid there are some people who do not have our electoral interests at their heart and that’s why I’m speaking out now."

But on the same programme, one senior Momentum figure rejected suggestions that the organisation was a hard-left entryist organisation trying to infiltrate Labour.

Christine Shawcroft said Watson’s attack on Momentum was in reality about trying to stop McCluskey being re-elected as the Unite general secretary.

"I think this whole non-story - Jon said nothing that was at all controversial. I think this is a concerted attempt to interfere in the internal election in Unite for general secretary, which is really shocking," she said.

She also rejected the description of Momentum and Corbyn as being on the "hard left"  – but argued that Watson was on the right of politics.

"These labels are really quite nonsensical. I consider myself to be a moderate. I’m a moderate socialist. I consider Jeremy Corbyn to be a moderate socialist... Jeremy’s policies are just pure common sense.

"I happen to think that Mr Watson is rather rightwing ... He clearly wishes to go back to the days of command and control on a Blairite model, and that is not what the Labour party is about. We have a mass membership now and that membership wants its voice to be heard."

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