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Union leaders dismiss 'wholly unwelcome' Tom Watson broadside against Labour Brexit policy

UNION leaders hit back at Tom Watson today for calling for delaying an election to hold a second referendum on the EU.

The deputy Labour leader attacked the party’s official stance — that a general election should come first — by saying a second referendum should be called beforehand and Labour should be “unequivocally Remain” in such a vote. His own West Bromwich East constituency voted 68 per cent to Leave in 2016.

“A general election could fail to solve Brexit chaos,” he said.

His comments echo the interventions of former Labour PM Tory Blair, who has called for a second referendum while urging against a general election.

In a withering retort, Unite leader Len McCluskey said Mr Watson’s views “don’t really matter” and that “he pops up now and again” to undermine Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn but that “fewer and fewer people listen to him.”

GMB general secretary Tim Roache said that Mr Watson’s intervention was “wholly unwelcome” and “disappointing.”

He also did not rule out the union backing a different candidate for Mr Watson’s position as deputy Labour leader.

Mr Roache added: “We are heading into a general election and we welcome a general election, bring it on.

“But no-one is going to vote for a divided party. If anyone steps out of line thinking for their own needs and own gains it’s wholly unwelcome — and will be opposed by the GMB.”

Communication Workers Union general secretary Dave Ward said: “If Tom Watson is so keen to delay an election perhaps he should delay his own and not bother standing as a Labour MP.”

Sarah Cundy of socialist pro-Brexit group Leave Fight Transform said Mr Watson’s election-phobia showed he “doesn’t give a toss” about working-class people.

She said: “No matter how far the Labour Party concede to the right on Brexit, Blairites will continue to use every opportunity to criticise and undermine the left leadership.

“Mr Watson’s comments are the most recent in a long line of attempts to do so.

“They show that he doesn’t give a toss about the state of working class lives. That he’d rather have the Tories in power than the party he’s supposed to represent.

“We knew what we were voting for in 2016. Patronising rhetoric and implications that the working class were too stupid to understand what was going on are a disgusting insult.

“They shouldn’t be tolerated, let alone promoted, by a Labour Party in left control.

“We don’t need a second referendum, we need a general election with Labour standing on a ticket of leaving the EU, respecting democracy, and implementing radical socialist policies.

“And we need that, preferably, with a new prospective parliamentary candidate for Labour in West Bromwich East.”

Mr Corbyn responded to his deputy’s intervention saying: “It’s Tom’s view and I don’t accept it and I don’t agree with it.”

Labour MP Gareth Snell said the numbers “simply do not exist in Parliament for a referendum,” adding the public had “no appetite” for a second EU poll.

In his TUC conference speech on Tuesday, Mr Corbyn said that if he became Prime Minister he would offer a referendum with a “credible Leave option” negotiated by Labour as well as Remain.

He also said that his priority is for an election as soon as Parliament has blocked the possibility of a no-deal Brexit.


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