Watson cheered by MPs as Owen Smith continues to mull leadership bid


Tom Watson

Tom Watson was cheered at a meeting of Labour MPs tonight as speculation mounted that former shadow Cabinet minister Owen Smith could announce a leadership bid tomorrow.

Watson, deputy leader, was applauded as he described to the parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) his attempts to “fix” the crisis which has engulfed the Opposition.

“I tried to fix this and I couldn’t”, said Watson, according to the Daily Mirror. Watson, who called off talks with Corbyn at the weekend, provided more details of his discussions, having previously said he was trying to “negotiate” the departure of the leader

At the same meeting tonight Emily Thornberry, the new shadow Foreign Secretary, provided an update to MPs on Labour’s stance towards Brexit but the session lacked some of the pyrotechnics which have come to characterise the Monday evening gatherings. Clive Lewis, recently promoted to shadow Defence Secretary, told MPs they would be permitted a free vote on the renewal of Trident.

Backbencher John Mann left the meeting early saying he had heard enough of what he described as Thornberry’s “prattling on”.

The meeting was held as conflicting reports emerged about the intentions of Smith, the former shadow Work and Pensions Secretary. He has still to rule himself out of a run despite Angela Eagle’s launch of her leadership bid today and her attempt to pitch herself as the candidate who can bring “unity” to the party. Last week Smith said he stood ready to do “anything I can to save and serve the party” and tonight various media reported he could make a declaration tomorrow, as well as rejections that he would act within 24 hours.

Tomorrow Labour’s ruling body, the national executive committee, is due to meet and issue a decision on whether Corbyn is guaranteed a place on the leadership ballot or if he needs to secure 51 nominations from MPs and MEPs. It will be a “long” meeting, one insider said.



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