Jeremy Corbyn could become 'unbeatable' and stay leader for years, says Tom Watson

Labour’s deputy leader said Mr Corbyn can bring together an election-winning coalition of young and working-class voters

Greg Wilford
Sunday 02 July 2017 14:58
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Jeremy Corbyn speaks at an anti-austerity march at Parliament Square
Jeremy Corbyn speaks at an anti-austerity march at Parliament Square

Jeremy Corbyn has secured his position as Labour leader and could bring together an “unbeatable” coalition of young and working-class voters, according to his deputy leader Tom Watson.

Mr Watson, who one year ago warned that Labour was facing “an existential crisis”, now claims his party can win a majority in the next election by reaching “those people who doubted us or weren’t quite convinced”.

The MP for West Bromwich East urged activists to focus on winning over voters in Labour’s traditional working-class heartlands, rather than changing party rules to strengthen Mr Corbyn’s position.

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In March, Mr Watson pleaded with Mr Corbyn to “deal with” hard-left activists, warning that they were themselves trying to seize permanent control of Labour through its powerful executive.

“I think everyone knows now Jeremy’s position is completely secure as leader,” he told the Observer.

“What comes out of it is a potential new alliance for Labour.

“If we can bring [in] these young voters, enthuse them to stay with us and then give greater reassurance to our traditional working-class voters, some of whom left us on issues like policing and security, then I think we’ve got an election-winning alliance and I think it is an unbeatable one.”

Mr Watson said the Labour leader now has “a highly enthused PLP [parliamentary Labour party] around him to take him through the years ahead”.

The interview comes after Mr Corbyn stamped his authority on his party by sacking three shadow ministers who defied the Labour whip on Brexit.

One of his key allies, the new Labour chairman Ian Lavery, has said he wants to look at different ways to select MPs after the left wing of the party gained confidence following the general election result.

In June 2016 Mr Watson called on Mr Corbyn to quit, telling the BBC: “My party is in peril; we are facing an existential crisis.”

But following the party's general election gains he said voters had responded to Mr Corbyn’s “honesty, candour, and energy”.

A study by the left-leaning thinktank Policy Network, cited in the Observer, found that Labour’s core support now lies among the richest and poorest voters in the country.

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But the party won just 33 per cent of the vote among those earning between £21,000 and £34,000 a year, compared with the Conservative’s share of 48 per cent among that income bracket.

Just 22 per cent of that group said they felt Labour had moved closer towards the interests of “traditional working-class supporters”.

Nearly two-thirds of the 64 seats Labour must win to gain a majority have more C2 voters than high-earners.

Mr Watson said Labour “have got to give reassurance to those traditional, working-class communities” if they are to beat the Conservatives at the next election.

Patrick Diamond and Charlie Cadywould, who co-wrote the Policy Network report, said Labour had to dispel voters’ worries about their economic incompetence and policies on security.

They told the Observer: “A ‘one more push’ approach at the next election may be enough to allow Labour to cobble together an unstable minority government, but much more is needed to win an outright majority even of one, let alone a comprehensive victory which would produce a two- or three-term government able to deliver radical reform.

“For Labour to win a majority, it can’t forget about the lower middle classes, and this polling shows it has a lot more work to do before it wins sufficient support from ‘making ends meet’ Britain.”

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