‘Brutality and hostility’ within party behind decision to quit, says Tom Watson

By Harriet Line, PA Deputy Political Editor

Labour former deputy leader Tom Watson has said he stood down as an MP in part because of the “brutality and hostility” within his party.

The ex-minister, who represented the West Bromwich East constituency until the general election earlier this month, said he thought it was “time to take a leap” and “do something different”.

In an interview with The Guardian newspaper, Mr Watson said conditions within the party were partly responsible for making his political career unsustainable.

Tom Watson, right, said it was time ‘to do something different’ (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“The point is that the brutality and hostility is real and it’s day to day,” he said.

“So I just thought, now’s the time to take a leap, do something different. You’ve had a good innings. You’ve done good stuff. Go now.”

Mr Watson told the paper that a Labour supporter had been arrested for making a death threat via the party, but that party officials had not informed him about it.

And he revealed that he gave his backing to former MP Owen Smith when he challenged Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour leadership in 2016.

“I did vote for Owen, but I’ve never said it publicly before,” he told the paper.

“I thought, as soon as the leader loses the confidence of the parliamentary party it’s almost impossible to see how you can form a government. I thought Jeremy should have resigned, and he nearly did.”

Mr Watson’s former seat was won by the Tories in the December 12 election, but Mr Watson was not contesting it after announcing he would not seek reelection the previous month – saying the decision was personal rather than political.

He criticised Labour’s messaging in the campaign, saying: “There were announcements everywhere, but none of them got through because there were so many.

“You knew what Boris Johnson’s was: Get Brexit done. What was the Labour strapline?”