Tom Watson urges Jeremy Corbyn to intervene as bid to oust him plunges Labour into civil war

Secret move to abolish deputy leader post branded a ‘drive-by shooting’ by Jon Lansman – and like something that ‘happens in Venezuela’

Tom Watson urges Corbyn to stop bid to scrap his deputy leader post

Tom Watson has condemned the attempt to remove him as Labour’s deputy leader as like something that “happens in Venezuela” and urged Jeremy Corbyn to stop it.

Attacking the bid to abolish his post as a “drive-by shooting” by Jon Lansman, the Momentum founder, Mr Watson revealed he only learned about it by text message, while eating in a Chinese restaurant in Manchester.

And, making clear where he believed responsibility really lay, he added: “Jeremy can stop it if he wants to this morning.”

A clearly stunned Mr Watson spoke ahead of an expected fresh attempt to topple him when Labour’s ruling national executive committee (NEC) meets again this morning.

A Momentum source accused him of being “set on wrecking Labour’s chances”, after he challenged Mr Corbyn on antisemitism and on backing Remain in any fresh Brexit referendum.

Significantly, the Labour leader has refused to comment on the extraordinary return of Labour’s civil war, on the eve of the party’s annual conference and with a general election looming.

Mr Corbyn is expected to be at the fresh NEC meeting this morning – while his deputy, for now, revealed he had had to ask to take part “by dial-in”.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Watson pointed out that Labour under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown had tolerated leftwingers such as Mr Corbyn in the party.

“This conference is supposed to be a platform for what could be a general election in six weeks,” he said.

“It’s a straight sectarian attack on a broad church party. And it’s moving us into a different kind of institution where pluralism isn’t tolerated.”

And he added: “These kinds of things happen in Venezuela – they shouldn’t be happening in Britain.”

The Corbyn wing of the party is moving against Mr Watson in the most dramatic way possible because it cannot secure the necessary 20 per cent of Labour MPs to trigger a deputy leader’s election.

On Friday evening, the chair of the NEC ruled Mr Lansman’s motion out of order, but he then sought to have that decision overturned.

The Momentum founder won the subsequent vote 17-10. That fell just short of the two-thirds majority necessary to challenge the first decision, but NEC members agreed to discuss it again at Saturday’s meeting.

If it does vote to scrap the deputy leader’s post, it will be put to Labour members in a conference vote in Brighton early next week.

Elected to the position in 2015, Mr Watson’s relations with his leader have deteriorated further with his Future Britain Group, to champion social democrats in the party, and his call for a new Brexit referendum before a general election.

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