UK's Labour Party in turmoil as vote to oust deputy ditched
London: A vote to oust the deputy leader of Britain's main opposition Labour Party was ditched Saturday after a big backlash to the proposal prompted Jeremy Corbyn, the party's leader, to intervene.
The surprise attempt to abolish the role of deputy leader by one of Corbyn's close allies caused uproar among many Labour members and has overshadowed the start of the party's annual conference in the southern England city of Brighton.
Corbyn has tried to put a lid on the row by proposing that Labour carry out a review of the role, currently held by lawmaker Tom Watson, who has clashed with the leader on a number of issues, notably Brexit.
The proposal to get rid of the deputy's role had been scheduled to be put to a vote Saturday of Labour's governing body, the National Executive Committee.
The move against Watson has laid bare the divisions in the party Watson has espoused a number of viewpoints that have offended many of Corbyn's left-wing supporters but have appealed to the moderate wing of the party. Heading into the conference on Saturday, Corbyn tried to put a brave face on the row and said he enjoyed working with Watson."The NEC agreed this morning that we are going to consult on the future of diversifying the deputy leadership position to reflect the diversity of our society," Corbyn said.
Questioned by assembled reporters, Corbyn refused to say when he first knew about the attempt to oust Watson, nor whether he had full confidence in his deputy. Watson told BBC radio before the proposal was ditched that the attempt to oust him was akin to "a straight sectarian attack on a broad-church party" and that he believes his position on Brexit was behind the move.
He said the move against him came as a shock and that he was in a Chinese restaurant in Manchester Friday evening when he found out about it.
The row exploded Friday when Jon Lansman, the founder of the pro-Corbyn grassroots Momentum group, proposed a motion for Watson's job to be scrapped. Lansman said in a tweet he welcomed Corbyn's proposal to review the role of deputy leader and added that the party needs "to make sure the deputy leader role is properly accountable to the membership while also unifying the party at conference.