Last week Dave Watts was elected as Labour’s new PLP Chair. But who is he? Kevin Meagher profiles the new “shop steward for Labour MPs”:
If dictionaries had photos, then it’s a fair bet that if you looked up the word ‘genial’ there would be a picture of Dave Watts, the new chair of the parliamentary Labour party (PLP).
The affable Labour MP for St Helens North beat Leyton and Wanstead’s John Cryer by 138-88 to the role that’s invariably described as “shop steward for Labour MPs”.
His main tasks will be chairing the weekly meeting of Labour MPs and representing backbenchers’ concerns to the leadership. He succeeds Manchester Central MP Tony Lloyd who is off to stand as Greater Manchester’s police commissioner.
Around a quarter of the entire PLP is made up from the north west bloc, and Watts, a former regional whip, was well-placed to call in favours from his colleagues. A task made all the easier, it has to be said, because Dave Watts is definitely one of Labour politics’ nice guys.
Elected for his home town of St. Helens North in 1997 (where he was previously leader of the council), Watts served as PPS to ministers including John Spellar and John Prescott before completing a five-year stint in the whips’ office.
He is the type of rootsy yet pragmatic figure the party’s MPs need right now. He is a settler of tempers, not of scores. An able backroom fixer he will bring some much needed ‘real world’ perspective to the top of the party. This is a smart appointment.