Stop infighting and focus on tackling the Tories, Tom Watson to tell Labour

Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson will seek to draw a line under the “damaging, divisive and unnecessary” failed bid to oust him.

In a speech to party members on the fourth day of their annual conference, which has been overshadowed by splits over Brexit, he will urge Labour to stop infighting and instead focus on tackling the Tories.

The frontbencher is set to provocatively claim Prime Minister Boris Johnson is placing the country in the greatest danger it has faced since being confronted by Hitler’s Nazis in 1940.

Mr Watson survived a call for his position to be abolished just hours before the party’s conference in Brighton began on Saturday.

He will say: “I didn’t choose the row going into this vital week for our party and our country, I didn’t want it, I didn’t seek it and I regret it.

“It was damaging, divisive and unnecessary. Unfortunately we cannot pretend it didn’t happen. But let us now draw a line under it.”

In chaotic scenes at the conference on Monday, party members voted for Labour to fight the next general election without a position on Brexit.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s policy of remaining neutral until after a poll was passed by a show of hands, while members rejected a motion which would have called on Labour to come out in support of Remain straight away.

The result is a boost for Mr Corbyn, who has argued that Labour should go into the expected general election without making a decision on how it should campaign on the referendum his party has promised within six months of taking office.

A decision on how the party would campaign in the referendum would be taken at a subsequent special conference.

The vote came after shadow cabinet ministers Emily Thornberry and Sir Keir Starmer both used their keynote conference speeches to say they would back Remain.

Labour Party Conference
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn with shadow environment secretary Sue Hayman announced plans to halve food bank usage within twelve months (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir later said he was “disappointed” by the result, telling a conference fringe event: “I don’t think there is a deal that’s going to be as good as the deal we’ve got.”

On Tuesday, Labour will announce a plan to build 37 new offshore wind farms if they win the next election.

The party will also pledge to halve food bank usage within twelve months and will seek to end the need for them altogether within three years of entering government.

The attempt last week to abolish Mr Watson’s position was led by Jon Lansman, the boss of the Momentum campaign group.

Labour Party Conference
Delegates voting on Labour’s Brexit policy during the Labour Party Conference (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The effort was abandoned after Mr Corbyn intervened and launched a review of the deputy position instead.

Mr Watson has repeatedly clashed with the Labour leader and has been one of the party’s most prominent voices calling for it to back remaining in the European Union.

In a plea for unity, the deputy leader will urge Labour to focus on taking on the Conservatives – warning that “Boris Johnson is putting Britain in the greatest danger we’ve faced as a nation since the summer of 1940”.

“The Tories seem to want to destroy as much of Britain as they can. Not just our economy and our social fabric, but our constitution too.

“Now, of all times, we cannot let the Tories escape scrutiny.

“Labour must be together. This is a time to keep our gaze high.”

He will say that Labour must “demonstrate the leadership that voters want to see” on tackling the challenges facing the country.

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