Tom Watson set to “stand down from national politics”

Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader and the MP for West Bromwich East, has announced his decision to “stand down from national politics”.

After 35 years of working in politics full-time, Watson will step down both as a Labour MP and as deputy leader at the upcoming election on December 12th.

He has promised to campaign in favour of a Labour government in the run-up to polling day next month, and “won’t be leaving politics altogether” after the election.

In a letter to Jeremy Corbyn, Watson acknowledges that the two have “political differences” but says his decision to resign is “personal, not political”.

Watson intends to focus on his policy interests, according to the letter, by “writing about the public health challenge facing our country” and devoting himself to political campaigns.

He vows to continue working on areas including “gambling reform, music and arts, stopping press intrusion, obesity and public health and of course horticulture and cycling”.

Responding to the news, Corbyn shared his own letter in full and tweeted: “Thank you @tom_watson for your service to our party and your constituents.

“I know you’ll continue to take on the vested interests of the Murdoch empire, big sugar companies and the gambling industry. This is not the end of our work together.”

Labour’s national executive committee will soon initiate the selection process to find a new candidate for West Bromwich East, where Watson has a majority of 7,713 votes.

Below is Tom Watson’s statement in full.

Serving the Labour Party has been the privilege of a lifetime. I joined in 1982 and never imagined that one day a kid from Kidderminster would be the party’s Deputy Leader.

Most importantly for me, for the last 18 years it’s been my immense honour to represent people from Sandwell. It’s hard to find words to express my deep gratitude to the people who trusted me to fight their corner.

The Black Country is the very best of Britain. Communities who look out for their neighbours, who want to get on but not at the expense of others. Black Country people are the best in the world.

But now is the right time for me to stand down from national politics. The disagreements we have had inside the party are well-known; now is not the time to rehearse them again.

For me, the last few years have been personally transformational, second only to becoming a proud father of two beautiful children.

Downsizing and becoming healthy for the first time has inspired me to devote the next phase of my life to public health, using my own experience and working with entrepreneurs and public servants.

I am incredibly optimistic about reversing the national public health crisis through education, deep technology and public policy. I will devote myself to writing about this challenge, agitating for policy change and setting up a ‘remission for all’ movement for type 2 diabetics. I will announce further plans in the coming months, but I am excited about working with people I’ve met and many I’ve not.

I might be leaving Westminster but I won’t be leaving politics altogether. I will continue to champion progressive social democracy and a political culture that is inclusive, diverse and respects the opinions of others. In recent years we’ve lost sight of that simple politeness which used to define us as a nation. We need to find it again.

I will not be walking away from the election campaign. I will continue as Deputy Leader until December 12th and will do everything I can to return a team of bright, progressive Labour MPs.

Since its formation, the Labour Party has been the most powerful vehicle for social change this country has ever produced. I am deeply proud of what past Labour governments achieved and determined that we do so again.

Below is the full text of Tom Watson’s letter to Jeremy Corbyn.

Dear Jeremy, 

I have taken the very difficult decision to stand down as a Member of Parliament and Labour Deputy Leader at the forthcoming election.

Serving the Labour Party has been the privilege of a lifetime. I joined in 1982 and never imagined that one day a kid from Kidderminster would be the party’s Deputy Leader.

Most importantly for me, for the last 18 years it’s been my immense honour to represent people from Sandwell. It’s hard to find words to express my deep gratitude to the people who trusted me to fight their corner.

The Black Country is the very best of Britain. Communities who look out for their neighbours, who want to get on but not at the expense of others. And the people who make up this area are the most honest and decent you’ll find anywhere in the world.

But now is the right time for me to stand down from the House of Commons and start a different kind of life. The decision is personal, not political.

The last few years have been among the most transformational of my personal life, second only to becoming a proud father of two beautiful children. I’ve become healthy for the first time, and I intend to continue with this work in the years to come.

I want to thank you for the decency and courtesy you have shown me over the last four years, even in difficult times.

Our many shared interests are less well known than our political differences, but I will continue to devote myself to the things we often talk about: gambling reform, music and arts, stopping press intrusion, obesity and public health and of course horticulture and cycling.

In the years to come I will be focusing even more on those policy interests. I will devote myself to writing about the public health challenge facing our country, taking on the sugar companies, campaigning for policy change, and setting up a ‘remission for all’ movement for type 2 diabetics. I have a book on ‘downsizing’ coming out in the new year. I will announce further plans in the coming months, but I am excited about working with people I’ve met and many I’ve not.

I might be standing down as an MP but I won’t be leaving politics altogether.

This election is a turning point for our country and I know that Labour goes into it united in our determination to remove the Conservative government that has done so much damage to the communities Labour was founded to represent.

I will be taking an active part in this election campaign. I will continue as Deputy Leader until 12 December and will do everything I can to return a team of Labour MPs who will transform our country.

I still believe with my whole heart what I believed when I joined on my 15th birthday in 1982: that the Labour Party is the most powerful vehicle for social change this country has ever produced. I will never stop fighting for it.

Yours sincerely,

Tom Watson

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