Tom Watson in focus: 'Labour can unite for General Election bid' - EXCLUSIVE

Tom Watson has said that Labour can form a united front to fight against the Tories in the General Election as confusion reigned over the party’s policy on Brexit.

Labour’s deputy leader insisted his party was capable of maintaining its supremacy in Black Country wards targeted by the Conservatives in the June 8 poll.

He said Labour was ‘in the right place’ over its Brexit policy, but refused to rule out the party campaigning for a second referendum.

His comments came as speculation mounted that Labour could promise a public vote on the EU deal in a bid to hold onto disenchanted Remain voters.

But just hours later a spokesman for Jeremy Corbyn poured cold water on the issue by confirming that a second referendum would not be included in the manifesto.

Mr Watson was in the Black Country at the launch of Dudley North MP Ian Austin’s election campaign.

Speaking exclusively to the Express & Star at Dudley College, the West Bromwich East MP, said: “We have said that we want Parliament to have a say on what the deal is, and I don’t think that is unreasonable given that it is the most important decision facing the country in my lifetime.

“But we also said we respect the decision to trigger Article 50, and we took a lot of flack for that. I think we did the right thing by respecting the decision of the people...that’s what you do in a democracy.”

When asked whether he was in favour of putting the final Brexit deal to a referendum, Mr Watson said: “I think we need to see what the deal is and I think you have to wait for our manifesto for me to confirm that either way. My view is the people have spoken, we have triggered Article 50, we will come out of the EU, but we have to fight for the best deal we can.”

Yesterday morning Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell had also suggested that calling a second referendum was a possibility.

But a spokesman for Mr Corbyn announced later: “A second referendum is not our policy and it won’t be in our manifesto.”

The party has been rife with division over the past two years, with Mr Corbyn comfortably winning two leadership elections despite widespread opposition from the bulk of his own MPs.

But Mr Watson said Labour would defy its low ratings in the polls and unite in opposition to the Tory Government.

Theresa May had ‘misled’ people with her intentions by calling the election, he said resulting in Brexit negotiations being put ‘on hold’ for the next two months.

“I don’t think that’s for the good of the country,” he said, before adding that the Tories had deceived the country on National Insurance.

They said in their last manifesto they would not tax small businesses.

They are not going to say it in this one.

“Labour is going to focus on Theresa May’s record and on the Tory plan for Britain.

“It’s not going to help the Black Country. It’s not going to help businesses or families and we are united in getting that message across.”

Wolverhampton South West MP Rob Marris, Gisela Stuart and Fiona Mactaggart have all said they will not defend their seats at the June 8 poll.

Mr Watson said he was ‘very disappointed to lose Mr Marris, who he described as ‘a great MP for Wolverhampton’. “You always lose MPs at elections,” he said.

“They have only had 48 hours to make their decision. I’m not surprised they are going. We have to make sure we get bright, young talented people to replace them.”

The Conservatives have targeted several Black Country constituencies in the election, with Wolverhampton South West, Walsall North and Dudley North said to be particular points of focus.

But Mr Watson said he believed Labour could hold onto all three seats.

Ian Austin has vowed to put the people of Dudley first as he launched his General Election campaign in the town centre.

The Labour MP for Dudley North said he planned to fight the upcoming election ‘on purely local issues’ and pledged to continue to fight for people in the borough who are ‘struggling to get by’.

Mr Austin has been a vocal critic of Jeremy Corbyn, and heckled him in the Commons last year over the Labour leader’s opposition to the Iraq war.

He said that issues that matter to the people of Dudley would be a the top of his campaign agenda.

“I will be fighting the Dudley North election campaign on local issues, including police funding, town centre investment and Russells Hall Hospital,” he said.

“My job is to stand up for people in Dudley, who in many cases are working hard and struggling to get by.”

Mr Austin, who has held the seat since 2005, also pledged to continue to represent Dudley people on Brexit in the House of Commons.

“I’m fighting for the best deal for local businesses and to protect jobs in Dudley and to attract more jobs to the Black Country,” he added.

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Comments for: "Tom Watson in focus: 'Labour can unite for General Election bid' - EXCLUSIVE"

Pete Smith

Interesting to see Tom Watson and Ian Austin talking belatedly about "unity" in the Labour Party (bit late now)........ looking after their own seats first, no doubt.

If the results end up as bad as some fear, then these 2 must take their share of responsibility as they have been amongst those Labour MPs who have been in denial of Corbyn's TWO Party leadership victories and have done little to offer their leader whole hearted support.

Perhaps they (and the many other Labour MPs and ex Labour MPs (shortly) who have been undermining the Party by failing to give 100% support to the democratic decision of the Party members on the leadership issue, will apologise on 9th June for their part in any electoral disaster on 8th June.

Given that the Labour Party (until Corbyn) offered nothing but "watered down" Conservatism, Corbyn is by far the best bet to offer a genuine alternative way forward that works for the millions rather than the millionaries.

Pete Smith

Blakenall ward resident and former Councillor (Walsall)

Sharmwolf

You can be united but you can't win.

This country is dying under this government but they are likely to be in power for at least 10 years.

A military coup is more likely than a Labour win

black country born

Why should anyone give 100% backing to someone elected by a union funded membership. The unions only represent a small minority of the working people of this country. No mater which Party is in power the rich will always get richer and not all millionaires are Tory.

Sparkles mum

I'm

Not sure what's worse him saying this or thinking we are that stupid to believe him . If he and his comrades in the PLP didn't think Corbyn was good enough to lead the LP why should we now believe that as an election has been called they are now united and Corbyn is good enough to lead the Country .

black country born

Corbyn is good enough to lead the union backed minority.

MrW

Typical spin by members of the same political party who have little in common but will try and hoodwink the electorate, then once it's all over, they refer to type..... namely either with unionist Corbyn or against him.

I forsee a 'night of the long knives' on June 9th!

black country born

How can Jeremy's mate Len be democratically elected when only 12% of union members voted. Voting should be made compulsory.

Warley Steve

Tom

I voted for Len

Blue Boy

The Labour Party uniting to win the election is like football hooligans ganging together to cause trouble at England games. Can you image the state of a government where most of the MP's are stabbing the PM in the back, the cabinet get sacked every other day and everyone of them disagree with the wishes of the electorate?

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