The Londoner: Tom Watson unto the breach over EU

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The Londoner: Tom Watson unto the breach over EU

Tom Watson has summoned the ghost of Shakespeare and the spirit of D-Day as he demands Labour make the case for the EU in a video released this morning.

“Think of Shakespeare, who never left England but set his plays in Venice, Athens, Denmark. Being European was central to his sense of who he was,” Watson says, framing Europe as “who we are and have been for centuries”.

Watson’s argument, delivered direct to camera and set to a stirring score, challenges his party to back another referendum and campaign for Remain.

The Labour deputy leader says British troops braved D-Day “to save France because the fates of our two nations were indivisible”.

Identifying European values not just as “British values” but as “Labour values”, Watson sets his sights on those in his own party whose support for the EU has been muted. He argues that “the tone” set by Right-wingers over Europe has “disfigured our public debate” and chides “the Left [which] hasn’t countered it loudly enough”. “Our support for Europe was whispered, not shouted,” he adds.

During the referendum campaign in 2016, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn rated his passion for staying in the European Union at “seven or seven and a half out of 10”. He was also criticised for taking a holiday just a month before the poll itself, though a spokesperson insisted it was “a long weekend” and lasted only three nights.

While there is an ongoing — and at times furious — row within the Labour Party about how strongly to back a second referendum, debates over what would be on the ballot paper are still live. Influential figures such as Len McCluskey, the general secretary of Unite the Union, have argued that Remain should not even be an option in another vote.

This morning, a number of Labour MPs including Owen Smith, who challenged Corbyn for the leadership in 2016, strongly backed Watson’s video, which ends with a description of himself as “proudly British. Proudly European.”

A dish to forget the year of the mad cow

Philip Hammond and Chinese Vice-Premier Hu Chunhua at the London Stock Exchange (Getty Images)

The 10th Economic Financial Dialogue between the UK and China takes place at Mansion House this evening — and Chancellor Philip Hammond is taking the opportunity to do some PR. The main course will be Hereford beef fillet, to celebrate China’s lifting of a 20-year ban on British beef, imposed during the height of the BSE scandal. The ban was officially overturned in June last year in a deal worth £250 million over five years. “It’s important to us to show the quality of British beef,” a source tells The Londoner. Dessert is Pimm’s and cucumber jelly.


Jeremy Hunt delivered a successful, gaffe-free performance during last night’s Tory leadership debate but, unfortunately for the Foreign Secretary, his message isn’t translating online. “Every older person,” Hunt’s campaign posted in a tweet, “should die with dignity and respect. We should be the party who sorts it out.” Really?


Ed Miliband says he was inspired by Alastair Campbell’s book Winners. “I had this thought float through my mind about a year ago — ‘Maybe I should write a book called Losers?’” Miliband tells his podcast. “And I thought, ‘God, that’s going to make me out to be a loser.’ Or maybe people know that anyway.”

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Nigella Lawson and Nicola Formby (Dave Benett/Getty Images)

The late, legendary food critic AA Gill received a special tribute from his daughter Flora Gill yesterday, at the first Sunday Times AA Gill Award for emerging food writers. Flora, who timed the ceremony to coincide with Father’s Day, came up with the idea as a fitting tribute to her dad’s extraordinary talent and to find “the next great critic”.The inaugural winner was Kitty Drake. Gill said that judging the entries had made her “laugh, cry, salivate and heave”. She attended with her mother, Amber Rudd, the Work and Pensions Secretary and ex-wife of AA Gill. Flora recently recalled her divorced parents bickering over their differing approaches to dressing their daughter. After a shoppping trip with her father, “I returned, as a 10-year-old, in a pink miniskirt and crop top bedazzled with Tweety Bird, to hear Mum exclaim to a grinning Dad: ‘She looks like she’d pole dance for Freddos.’”

Other famous guests included Nigella Lawson, actor Gwendoline Christie, and designer Giles Deacon, as well as AA Gill’s widow, Nicola Formby.


Rory Stewart was told to leave Hampstead Heath on Saturday as his live-streaming violated the heath’s no-filming rule. Stewart had bumped into David Baddiel, before an official asked them to leave. “He’s been to Afghanistan, he’s dealt with warlords and drug barons — and he’s going to be chased out of Hampstead Heath now,” Baddiel told the Camden New Journal.


Jacob Rees-Mogg threw a party last week to celebrate his 50th birthday and new book, The Victorians. Kwasi Kwarteng MP was overheard telling columnist Bruce Anderson that Jeremy Hunt lacked public appeal. “You need fame and celebrity now. This isn’t the 19th century.” Wrong crowd...


After our report on Thangam Debbonaire MP joining Parliament’s newest band, she played the cello for Labour activists on Sunday. “Not every day you get a concert from your MP,” wrote Labourite Holly Jones.

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