Tom Watson resigns from the Shadow Cabinet

July 4, 2013 3:06 pm

Ed Miliband MP

Leader of the Opposition

House of Commons



4nd July 2013


Dear Ed,

I said that I’d stay with you as general election co-ordinator within the Shadow Cabinet as long as I was useful. I think it would be a good idea for you, and me, if I stood down from the role now.

As you know, I offered my resignation on Tuesday and you asked me to reconsider. I’ve thought about it and still feel it is better for you and the future unity of the party that I go now. There are some who have not forgiven me for resigning in 2006. I fully accept the consequences of that decision and genuinely hope my departure allows the party to move on.

Yet it’s not the unattributed shadow cabinet briefings around the mess in Falkirk that has convinced me that the arrangement has run its course (though they don’t help). I believe that the report should be published – in full – and the whole truth told as soon as possible so that the record can be made clear. I’ve still not seen the report but believe there are an awful lot of spurious suppositions being written.

I wish to use the backbenches to speak out in areas of personal interest: open government and the surveillance state, the digital economy, drones and the future of conflict, the child abuse inquiries, the aftermath of the Murdoch scandal and grass roots responses to austerity.

Having resigned a couple of times before, I know how puckish lobby hacks might choose to misconstrue the departure. So to make it harder for them let me say this: I’m proud of your Buddha-like qualities of patience, deep thought, compassion and resolve. I remain your loyal servant. I’ll always be on hand to help you if you need me. I just don’t think you need me in the Shadow Cabinet any more. After nearly thirty years of this, I feel like I’ve seen the merry-go-round turn too many times. Whereas the Shadow Cabinet’s for people who still want to get dizzy.

You have it in you to be an outstanding Labour Prime Minister. The road ahead is always rocky but I will be with you all of the way, cheering you on from the backbenches. You’re my friend and leader, and I’m going to do all I can to make sure you win in 2015.

Here’s my parting thought:

John Humphrys asked me why you were not at Glastonbury this weekend. I said Labour leaders can’t be seen standing in muddy fields listening to bands. And then I thought how terribly sad that this is true. So: be that great Labour leader that you can be, but try to have a real life too. And if you want to see an awesome band, I recommend Drenge.

Yours sincerely,

Tom Watson

Member of Parliament for West Bromwich East

  • RAnjeh

    What goes around comes around.

  • Alex Shattock

    A great loss to the Shadow Cabinet. I wish him all the best on the back benches.

  • kb32904

    Sad to see him go but hopefully this will mean a re-shuffle goes ahead with Byrne & Twigg being moved :-)

    • JohnPReid

      Twigg and Byrne could be moved to shadow home sec and Shadow chancellor!

      • kb32904

        Oh stoooppppp, my sides are splitting…..

        • JohnPReid

          I think there’s more chance of me or you getting those jobs!

    • John Ruddy

      Wishfull thinking, as I’m not sure that any other existing members of the shadow cabinet have the relevant campaigning qualities.

    • crosland

      YEH, let’s get on with a civil war in the party and fight amongst ourselves and let the media flay Labour even more. Forget the tories being in disarray over UKIP etc, let’s start our own infighting. Pathetic. Even if you thin Twigg and Byrne are shite, are the rest so great ? Has Balls convinced the electorate after THREE years that we can be trusted with the economy ?

      • reformist lickspittle

        But it is the Blairites who are the problem – they are busy briefing the papers this weekend (anonymously, of course)

        They need to accept their time in the sun is over – or go.

  • RJ

    Not good timing.

  • NT86

    Shame about this, I’ve always liked Tom. This is a really interesting and well written letter. Did lol a bit at the Siddhartha Gautama comparison.

  • RJ

    Not good timing at all.

  • Pete

    A tremendous loss to the Shadow Cabinet – whoever replaces him is going to have some very big shoes to fill – but I do very much look forward to seeing his future contributions from the backbenches.

  • JohnPReid

    Does his replacement have to be A M.P?

  • PaulBurgin

    Sad to see him go. A decent man who was treated harshly by people who should help concentrate on helping Labour win the next election rather than settling old scores

    • crosland

      Yes, it wasn’t like someone who urged a leader who had just helped win a third general election victory and all the spending we got across the country as a result to resign the year after, because his grumpy mate wanted his go was it ?
      He then returned to govt after he said he wouldn’t and did what exactly in his new role ? All he was good for was Friday afternoon emails that often addressed issues days later.
      Mr Watson has done little but carry on settling scores since in post. Hopefully they will appoint someone who knows what they are doing.

  • disqus_culo11qPs9

    Anyone who wants to listen to Drenge FYI –

  • Colin Finch

    Potential leadership challenge……?

    • reformist lickspittle


      Hope this helps :)

  • Danny

    One of the few politicians who actually resonates with the hard-working sections of the electorate. A brave, conviction politician who was always going to struggle in the front-line of modern politics, which is now a place exclusively for Westminster-obsessed, former Spads with CVs devoid of proper jobs.

  • Pingback: Tom Watson cites rock band Drenge in resignation letter | Political Scrapbook

  • dave stone

    “open government and the surveillance state, the digital economy, drones and the future of conflict, the child abuse inquiries, the aftermath of the Murdoch scandal and grass roots responses to austerity.”

    What a great shame that Tom has to go to the back-benches to speak out about these important themes.

  • Siobhan O’Malley

    first signs of a leadership challenge against Miliband?

  • Ian Young

    Ed would get his suit muddy if he went to Glastonbury.

  • alfoxton

    Wasn’t he at Glasto last week. We’re all done stuff we regretted on a come down.

  • Redshift1


  • Mike Homfray

    A pity although he is the sort of person who is just as effective as a backbenchers. It does show me that our own enemy within need dealing with. Progress need to be expelled.

    • Chilbaldi

      this has nothing to do with Progress.

      • Alex Otley

        The Progress backed candidate in Falkirk is also alleged to have paid for members to join, from what I’ve heard.

        • Mike Homfray

          Of course it is. Jim Murphy is the one doing the stirring. Progress have got to go.

          • Chilbaldi

            Utterly laughable that you can say Progress should go and not Unite.

            Neither should, for avoidance of doubt.

          • dave stone

            “Neither should [go]”

            But Labour/Progress are pro-austerity and Unite is anti-austerity. How on earth can they share the same bed?

          • Alex Otley

            Apparently it’s Gemma Doyle’s husband and he has the backing of Jim Murphy.

      • Siobhan O’Malley

        Of course it does.

    • crosland

      Yeh it’s great isn’t it fighting amongst ourselves. Much easier than fighting the real enemy. Like the ‘enemy within’ phrase, stuck for ideas so you use a favourite Thatcher expression. Now lets do a 1983 manifesto and wallow in opposition under a leader like Kinnock and watch everyone getting stuffed all over again.

  • Pingback: Tom Watson: 'I resign … Oh, and have you heard Drenge?'

  • chris conder

    Good on you Tom, a man with principles and you can give it some welly on the backbenches without having your hands tied behind your back. The digital britain we all want to see needs men of grit.

  • Tina

    Tom only has himself to blame, in a position of influence his faith in Open Government is exposed as fake, it should have started with open politics and Labour selections. Instead of using his power he has been happy with the fixer tab, good to see his selection meddling has bit him in the arse.
    Let this episode be a marker, no conviction, no principle he like many of the others he has helped select are in it for themselves not the good of the party.

  • crosland

    A man of principle who helped stab Tony Blair in the back – who are you kidding ? His hands are as dirty as those in the Blairite wing of the party.

    • Daniel Speight

      From what I remember the stab was from the front, not the back.

      • crosland

        Was it ?

  • crosland

    Yes, that will help us win elections – descend into in-fighting – Yiphee eh ?

    • dave stone

      I thought Labour had already given up on winning elections with their guarantee of the Tory austerity spending plan.

      I suppose the question now is who could most ably lead the Labour Party into a coalition with the Tories – there’s bound to be a few ministerial limousines on offer. My feeling is that Cameron would look very fondly upon Jim Murphy – this would be the two birds with one situation: Cameron’s politcal instincts will be reinforced and he’ll have more Scottish MPs than there are pandas in Scotland

      • crosland

        Personally as a labour activist who campaigned in Lancashire to help turn a tory held county ward into a labour one for the first time (with others) I don’t accept cra. talk about coalitions like you do. Perhaps you only campaign online ? Hopefully not.
        We didn’t have lections so we went to where the proverbial gun fire was, as committed members do that sort of thing.
        Are you really a labour supporter or one of those in the wider labour movement like the trade union and socialist alliance perhaps ? You know, the type that say no labour councillor should enact any cut, pay loss at all etc, and then pretend you’re in the real world ?
        Carry on reading your subscription magazines perhaps and playing at armchair socialist ?

        • rekrab

          Don’t throw stones at glass houses? I think you get my drift.

          Had you been around you’d have known Dave’s position.

          • crosland

            I’ve been ‘around’ for over thirty years so keep your brick throwing to yourself. I campaign in my community and where required not online. What a pompious individual you are ?

    • Chilbaldi

      Ignore Siobhan. I recall from her facebook page in the past she is a fan or trotskyite groups.

  • Daniel Speight

    When Mark once talked about Ed Milibands giant clanking balls over News International, it was of course Tom Watson’s balls he was hearing. Perhaps this recent quote from Watson sums up what’s wrong with the present leadership.

    Tony Blair marched us into the arid desert of pragmatism.

    See, we are still in that desert. Ed may have played the left and union card to get elected, but Labour is still a party of pragmatism over of principle. Progress and the Blairites will continue to try and narrow the differences between Labour and the Tories while the public will continue to feel there is no difference.

  • kb32904
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