Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t clap Tom Watson's praise for Tony Blair

The public discomfort illustrates the uphill struggle towards Labour unity

Jon Stone
Wednesday 28 September 2016 14:25 BST
The Labour leader did not join in with the applause
The Labour leader did not join in with the applause (Getty)

Labour’s divisions have been publicly exposed after conference delegates gave a standing ovation to deputy leader Tom Watson’s praise for the Blair and Brown era, while Jeremy Corbyn sat refusing to clap.

Mr Watson had the conference hall on its feet as he declared: “I don’t know why we’ve been focusing on what was wrong with the Blair and Brown governments”.

But as the audience cheered, Mr Corbyn sat silently fingering his beard nearby on the stage, giving TV cameras a moment likely to be played over and over and again on news bulletins.

The speech, in which the deputy leader told Labour members that capitalism was “not the enemy” of his party, hailed Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s achievements.

While Mr Corbyn applauded at the end of the speech, the visible disconnect underlines the uphill struggle Labour’s warring factions have to build a way forward.

Mr Watson said: “I don’t know why we’ve been focusing on what was wrong with the Blair and Brown governments for the last six years, but trashing our own record is not the way to enhance our brand.

“We won’t win elections like that and we need to win elections. The Prime Minister could call one next week. Now is the time to be proud of our party. We have to believe we can win, and remember how much we achieve when we do.

He continued: “We’re in the seventh year now of a Tory Government and the last time that happened I looked round and it was 17 years of Tory Government. I was 30 when we finally got back into power and I’d been seven years old when Labour had previously won a general election. I’ve never got over growing up under Thatcher and that’s not what I want for my children.

“I don’t want it for anyone’s children. We can’t let that happen again. We can't fail today's seven year olds. We can't let them grow up in Tory schools, paying to go to Tory hospitals, working all hours for low pay in jobs the Tories have degraded.

“We must be again what we are at our core: the party of Britain.”

Mr Corbyn was re-elected as leader on Saturday with an increased vote share of about 62 per cent. He won every section including members, affiliates, and registered supporters. A further 100,000-plus new members who joined under Mr Corbyn were barred from voting in the contest at the behest of the party’s ruling national executive committee.

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