Labour deputy leader says Brexit stance behind effort to oust him


Labour's deputy leader, Tom Watson, said on Saturday that his stance on Brexit, where he backs a second referendum before a parliamentary election, unlike leader Jeremy Corbyn, is behind efforts by some in the party to remove him.

Just over a month before Britain is due to leave the European Union, it still remains unclear whether, how or if Brexit will take place on October 31st, amid deep divisions within both the Conservatives and the Labour Party.

Citing disloyalty over Brexit at a meeting of Labour's National Executive Committee on Friday, Jon Lansman, the founder of the left-wing grassroots movement Momentum, proposed a motion to abolish the deputy's post, according to two party officials.

The chair ruled that the motion should be thrown out but it is set to go back to the National Executive Committee on Saturday and, if successful, due to be debated by Labour's annual party conference later on, according to a source close to Lansman.

Labour Party annual conference 2018

Watson told BBC radio: "I just think Jon Lansman and his faction are so angry about (my position on Brexit) that, they'd rather abolish me than have a debate with me about it."

Watson said he learned of vote on eve of Labour conference while sitting in Chinese restaurant in Manchester. He described the move to abolish his post as deputy leader of the party as a "drive-by shooting".

A Labour Party spokesman declined to comment.

The Conservatives have been bitterly divided over Europe for decades and have expelled as Prime Minister Boris Johnson promises to take Britain out of the EU with or without a deal, while others have simply quit.

Jeremy Corbyn backs a second referendum only after an election, which could come as soon as this year, while Watson wants a new public vote to settle the matter before Britons choose a new government.

Watson has been accused by some of Corbyn's supporters of being disloyal or even trying to undermine the Labour leader on a range of issues including allegations of anti-Semitism in the party.

Dawn Butler, Labour's spokeswoman for women and equalities, failed to fully back the deputy leader when given the chance on Saturday.

"I have my frustrations with Tom too," she told BBC radio. "I haven't seen him at a shadow cabinet meeting for a while and so I can understand people's frustration - but we are a broad church."

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