log in

  • Published in Opinion
Tom Watson. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Tom Watson. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

With his call for Labour to prioritise another referendum over a general election, the party’s deputy leader is undermining Jeremy Corbyn, argues Vladimir Unkovski-Korica

Tom Watson is at it again. Contradicting his leader just a day after Corbyn met union leaders and reiterated Labour’s position that it will seek a general election and offer a referendum with credible Leave and Remain options, Watson is calling for Labour to prioritise stopping Brexit instead.

This echoes Tony Blair’s line that a ‘simple referendum will solve Brexit – not another general election’. But another delay to calling a general election would in fact be understood in Brexit areas as Labour acting to betray the 2016 vote.

And the Tories are smelling blood. On 5 September, the right-wing Telegraph ran a headline “Revealed: The 30 Labour heartlands where Corbyn's Brexit fudge is set to make voters politically homeless”.

Delaying a general election further would only be music to Boris Johnson’s ears. Having lost his majority just days ago, he has miraculously found himself still in power. Labour delayed a no-confidence vote to pass legislation against no deal, but, having passed it, Labour chose to delay voting on an election until mid-October.

Now, there are increasing calls by the likes of Blair and Watson to delay further still until another referendum is called. But Boris Johnson would not call this referendum. So who would? Perhaps Blair and Watson would prefer a ‘progressive alliance’ with the Liberal Democrats, the SNP and others – without Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister?

That is the logic of the current manoeuvres. The idea has already been floated that a Tory or Labour ‘grandee’ should lead a government of national unity. The threat to Corbyn is clear: if you do not vote our way, we are prepared to disobey you. So far, the right has succeeded in making Labour move in its direction.

And this leaves Boris Johnson’s Tories with a lifeline. They can evermore consistently provide a narrative that they are in fact the party that stands for Brexit and for the people’s will, while the MPs are usurping power and trying to overturn the 2016 referendum, without putting themselves to a democratic vote. That consolidates a Tory base into any forthcoming general election.

The left must resist Watson’s logic, but it is also time for him to go. He has shown himself to be a consistent danger to the Corbyn project, wrecking all of Corbyn’s attempts at uniting working class people around issues that matter to them: austerity, the welfare state, good jobs, poverty, the climate.

To stop Watson, it is necessary for the left to organise and fight. Enough compromise, cut Watson loose, call a general election now, and mobilise for a government for the many, not the few! This should be the programme of the left to win.

Vladimir Unkovski-Korica

Vladimir Unkovski-Korica

Vladimir Unkovski-Korica is a member of Marks21 in Serbia and a supporter of Counterfire. He is on the editorial board of LeftEast and teaches at the University of Glasgow.

Help boost radical media and socialist organisation

Join Counterfire today

Join Now