Deputy leader addresses inaugural meeting of group uniting Brownites and Blairites
'Tom Watson argued that “the last thing” Labour needs “is another faction” as he spoke at a packed inaugural meeting of his Future Britain grouping, which he said was instead aimed at uniting social democrats within the party.
The Westminster meeting was attended by about 90 MPs and peers, including at least a dozen current frontbenchers and former senior figures including Neil Kinnock, Peter Mandelson, David Blunkett and John Prescott.
Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, was one of the few present to mention Jeremy Corbyn, arguing that he was behaving similarly to the way he had during his time as a backbencher when the party was led by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
“Jeremy, to his credit, kept the voice of his tradition alive through the campaign group during the New Labour years. So he understands the need for those from the social democratic and democratic socialist traditions to give ourselves the strongest voice we can,” Watson said.
But the meeting follows a period in which Watson has sought to assert himself as a counterweight to Corbyn, prompting speculation about whether the deputy was hoping to build up a bloc to oppose or even threaten the leader.
Frontbenchers at the meeting included the shadow transport secretary, Andy McDonald, the shadow justice minister, Gloria De Piero, and the shadow local government minister, Jim McMahon. Former frontbenchers included Caroline Flint, Hilary Benn, Rachel Reeves and Liam Byrne.'
Read more: Future Group is not just another Labour faction, Tom Watson insists