Everything is moving so quickly and taking us by surprise in this General Election. Yesterday was no exception!!
It looked like the Tories were self imploding again on the day of their big launch with the forced resignation of Alun Cairns the Welsh Secretary. They got told off for trying to use the Civil Service to do their election work and looked pretty dodgy refusing to publish a report on Russian interference in the elections in the UK. It does seem the Tories are struggling to get their campaign going.
However, after getting back from my regular Wednesday night Touch Rugby session, I found my phone had lit up with messages asking my opinion about Tom Watson. Leave social media for an hour in this election and you are off the pace!
If I am being honest my heart sank when I heard the news. I have known Tom since he came up to Loughborough during the 1997 campaign. In the last week we had a massive event at Loughborough University with Tony Blair visiting the campus in the morning and then a group of sports stars helping me in the afternoon. One of those was Rugby Player Brain Moore and Tom was his ‘minder’. As you can imagine that was a difficult task and Tom failed! I’ll repeat the story some time!
Over the years later when I got to know him in Parliament I enjoyed his friendship and even found myself helping him with his first rebellion against the whip towards the end of the Labour government on the Digital Economy Bill?
Since leaving we have kept in touch over a wide range of issues – including more recently as part of his role shadowing the DCMS brief. It’s also been great to see his own personal health journey – reversing his type 2 diabetes and losing weight. He certainly has been great with various bodies like the Sport and Recreation Alliance and UKactive in hammering home the Physical Activity agenda.
Of course more importantly I will miss Tom politically. As I have lost faith in the leadership of the Party under Corbyn, he has given some hope that the moderates had a voice in the Party. He has fought the corner for a People’s Vote & getting Labour into a sensible position on #Brexit and has been willing to take the vile abuse from the Corbynites as a consequence. Having seen the response from many on the left of the Party today just makes me realise what he has had to put up with. Where has the broad church that used to be the Labour Party gone?
Over the last 18 months in particular the fact that Tom seemed to be fighting on behalf of many of us progressives in the Party and keeping the fight going was an important part of us not leaving. Today I wonder where the leadership to replace Tom will come from in the new Parliament. His voice may have been needed more than ever in January when parliament returns. As we have no idea of the make up the Commons his experience and leadership will be required to work with the PLP, who still remain Corbysceptic in numbers.
If Labour Party members are rejoicing Tom moving on then there is seriously something wrong with them and the understanding of the Party and the broad church it needs to be to build a coalition with the electorate.
I now worry that both major parties are becoming intolerant places and driven by ideological purity rather than the need for a wider electoral appeal.
On the upside it looks like Tom will want to spend more time on public health and physical activity agenda. I have been fortunate to spend the last decade in this space and we look forward to gaining his experience and perspective. But our gain is certainly a loss to Labour. It’s another blow to our confidence in the Party.
This article better sums up the loss that many of us feel
Independent by ayesha-hazarika says it much better. The depressing thing is that its swing voters who have been telling me today how bad it is that Tom has gone. We need them!