The attempt by Momentum’s Jon Lansman to abolish the deputy leadership post was an “embarrassing mess” caused by a “hitman who shot himself in the foot”, Tom Watson told a Progress rally tonight.
On Friday evening, Lansman – a member of the party’s ruling body – put forward a motion to the national executive committee (NEC) that would have scrapped Watson’s leadership position had it not been ruled out of order by the chair.
The shadow cabinet member also condemned the NEC’s decision to dissolve Labour Students, via another Lansman motion. Watson praised the organisation for its campaigning efforts and described both Progress and Labour Students as “just as legitimately a part of this party as every other organisation that makes up this broad church”.
Progress chair Alison McGovern started her speech by thanking Lansman for “uniting Progress and Momentum” in condemning his failed attempt to oust deputy leader Tom Watson. “No one group in our party has a monopoly on wanting equality, justice and hope,” she argued.
Hillary Benn claimed that Labour had a “duty of care” towards activists that involves having a clear stance on Brexit in the event of a second referendum. Anna Turley similarly emphasised that “it’s absolutely vital that we don’t walk away”.
MEP Seb Dance made an impassioned plea for ideological diversity, saying: “We didn’t come into politics to discuss rule changes, to dismiss each other, to tell people they are traitors to the cause. We came into politics to fight for communities who need us to get rid of this government.”
Progress was founded in 1996 to support the birth of New Labour and Tony Blair’s leadership. Comedian and former political advisor Ayesha Hazarika referenced that fact, insisting that the group is “not owned by our members” but “owned by the millions of people who votes for us and put us into government not once, not twice, but three times”.
Speakers also praised Progress on their work with the LabourSay campaign, calling for Labour to become the firm party of Remain.
Speakers included Alison McGovern, Hillary Benn, Ayesha Hazirika, Anna Turley, Peter Kyle, Rosie Duffield, Phil Wilson, Rania Ramli, Seb Dance, Stella Creasy, Margaret Hodge and Tom Watson.