Donald Macintyre's Sketch: Tom Watson gives the Labour Party conference a rousing send-off

Labour Deputy Leader's comparison between the Lib Dems and Bananarama makes a cross-party pact unlikely

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So probably not a Labour pact any time soon with the Lib Dems. Tom Watson, having once compared Tim Farron’s party to a “Bananarama tribute band”, apologised... to Bananarama. “I should never have compared your tribute acts to  that useless bunch of lying sellouts... and I’m sorry.” 

The gag’s significance is that it was one of comparatively few. Normally a Deputy Leader’s conference closer – think Harriet Harman, John Prescott – is 30 per cent serious and 70 per cent jokes. despite the rich Tom and Jerry (Corby) possibilities – it was the other way round.  

But then this was when the great Fixer finally emerged from the backroom into the limelight. And he made the most of it. He filled in some gaps left by the leader on Tuesday – like listing some of the “literally a thousand progressive things we did to change our country for the better” in government. 

Not that he named Tony Blair (whom he helped to ease out of office) or even his old boss Gordon Brown. 

But he deftly added the late John Smith (for widening party democracy) to the list of Labour leaders it’s not taboo to mention. 

Acclaiming the party’s “unity”, he declared:  “We’ve shown that we can have different opinions, and argue for them passionately, but remain friends.” (Even if this doctrine was being severely tested by the furious shadow cabinet row over Corbyn’s latest remarks on the nuclear issue). “Let’s kick these nasty Tories down the road where they belong,” he concluded to wild applause. 

But maybe the Tories should not be the only ones to worry. Or even those Shadow Cabinet colleagues about whom he declared: “There are too many Special Advisers at the top of the Parliamentary Labour Party.” 

For this was a pretty good, if populist, speech, the kind that made you think he  might in future be, if not a contender, at least a kingmaker. 

He was super-loyal to “Jeremy” who had opened “an exciting, energetic debate about the future of the Labour party and... our country... And let’s be clear: because he’s the people’s choice, he’s the right choice.”

It was tempting to deconstruct this last remark. Not yet “the people,” actually, but a majority of  the half million who voted in the Labour contest.

And how long would that last?  But this is unworthy. He has already said he would back Corbyn “100 per cent.” 

Which he will. 

Until he doesn’t.