WATSON is the most prominent of a string of centrist MPs to leave Labour – or quit parliament altogether – since Corbyn took over his party in 2015.
His announcement comes hours after Philip Hammond, the Conservative chancellor until four months ago, also announced he was standing down as an MP of 22 years after clashing repeatedly with Boris Johnson over Brexit. And days after another well-known MP, Nicky Morgan, also decided to step down.
Watson, who is one of Labour’s best-known figures, has represented the constituency of West Bromwich East since 2001.
The Labour deputy leader had repeatedly clashed with Jeremy Corbyn, including over the Labour leader’s Brexit stance and his handling of antisemitism however in a letter to Corbyn released by Labour, Watson declares his decision to step down was “personal, not political”.
Watson was not a popular figure among some on the left of his party because of the challenge he presented to Corbyn and had repeatedly intervened in the Brexit debate publicly, insisting in one recent speech, “our hearts are remain, our values are remain”.
There has been speculations that Watson could be considering joining the Lib Dems but in his resignation letter, he insisted he would continue to fight for Labour, and would back Labour candidates in the general election campaign.
After 35 years in full-time politics, I've decided to step down and will be campaigning to overcome the Tory-fuelled public health crisis. I'm as committed to Labour as ever. I will spend this election fighting for brilliant Labour candidates and a better future for our country. pic.twitter.com/qGqiKTJ6br
— Tom Watson (@tom_watson) November 6, 2019
In Corbyn’s reply to Watson, the Labour leader said: “Few people have given as much to the Labour movement as you have and I know that many thousands of members and trade unionists that you have inspired and worked with over the years will be very sorry to see you go.”
Thank you @tom_watson for your service to our party and your constituents. I know you’ll continue to take on the vested interests of the Murdoch empire, big sugar companies and the gambling industry. This is not the end of our work together
Thank you @tom_watson for your service to our party and your constituents. I know you’ll continue to take on the vested interests of the Murdoch empire, big sugar companies and the gambling industry. This is not the end of our work together. pic.twitter.com/MpYLVklHdr
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) November 6, 2019
Both major parties will be significantly reshaped whatever the result of the general election.