Labour Deputy leader Tom Watson stands down as MP

6 November 2019, 21:34 | Updated: 6 November 2019, 21:56

Tom Watson will not stand in the next general election
Tom Watson will not stand in the next general election. Picture: PA

Labour deputy leader Tom Watson has said the decision to stand down in the upcoming general election was a "very difficult decision."

The former West Bromwich East MP has spent 35 years in full-time politics "and will now be campaigning to overcome the Tory-fuelled public health crisis."

He confirmed his departure on Twitter, saying: "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."

Meanwhile on Wednesday evening, Chris Williamson handed in his resignation to the party after being banned from standing in the December election by its National Executive Committee.

Mr Williamson will instead be standing as an independent candidate for Derby North as he fights "for social justice, internationalism and socialist values."

In a letter written to Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour deputy said serving his party had "been the privilege of a lifetime" having joined in 1982.

He wrote: "Most importantly for me, for the last 18 years it’s been my immense honour to represent people from Sandwell. It’s hard to find words to express my deep gratitude to the people who trusted me to fight their corner.

"The Black Country is the very best of Britain. Communities who look out for their neighbours, who want to get on but not at the expense of others. And the people who make up this area are the most honest and decent you’ll find anywhere in the world.

"But now is the right time for me to stand down from the House of Commons and start a different kind of life. The decision is personal, not political."

The former Midlands parliamentarian thanked Mr Corbyn for the "decency and courtesy" shown to him over the last four years, even in challenging times such as when he was almost deposed from his position during the 2019 party conference.

Mr Watson vowed to continue tackling issues close to his heart, such as "gambling reform, music and arts, stopping press intrusion, obesity and public health and of course horticulture and cycling."

He continued: "I might be standing down as an MP but I won’t be leaving politics altogether.

"This election is a turning point for our country and I know that Labour goes into it united in our determination to remove the Conservative government that has done so much damage to the communities Labour was founded to represent.

"I will be taking an active part in this election campaign. I will continue as Deputy Leader until 12 December and will do everything I can to return a team of Labour MPs who will transform our country.

Mr Corbyn thanked his colleague for his contribution to the party, saying "few people" had given as much to the Labour cause as Mr Watson.

"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," he said.

"Being an MP and Deputy Leader of our Party is far more than a job and I understand how difficult this decision has been for you to make and how deeply you have thought about it."

Mr Corbyn stated the party needs "campaigners like" Tom Watson and was "glad" he will continue to fight in the election until 12 December.

Secretary of State Gavin Williamson reacted to the news, saying "it says a lot about the Labour Party" that someone who had previously been "so committed" to the Labour movement does "not want to carry on."

"That's a very, very, very powerful message and I hope it's one that people listen to and get out there and vote Conservative," he said.

Liberal Democrat candidate Layla Moran said she was "both not surprised and also very surprised" by the news and wished the deputy Labour leader all the best for the future.

She wrote on Twitter: "Wow. I have to say I’m both not surprised and also very surprised. Best of luck with whatever you do Tom Watson."