Labour’s new Deputy Leader Tom Watson today set out his opposition to three of Jeremy Corbyn’s key policies as he insisted he had his own mandate from party members.
The West Bromwich East MP this morning insisted the UK should stay in Nato, should not unilaterally give up its nuclear weapons and should vote to remain in the European Union.
Those three policy positions are in contrast to Mr Corbyn, a consistent unilateralist who believes Nato should have been disbanded after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Mr Corbyn is also a Eurosceptic who has attacked Brussels for allowing the creation of tax havens and sheltering big business.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show this morning, Mr Watson called Mr Corbyn’s victory “a huge political realignment” and acknowledged he “has a huge mandate from our members”.
But the Deputy Leader, who secured his victory with 50.7 per cent of the vote, insisted he too had the backing of party members.
He said: “I’ve stood on a platform and I’ve got my own mandate to reform the Labour Party.”
When asked about abandoning Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent, Trident, Mr Watson accepted there are “different views” in the party, and said: “I think the deterrent has kept the peace in the world for half a century and I hope we can have that debate in the party.”
Mr Watson defended the UK’s position in Nato, and said: “I aim to convince him [Mr Corbyn] of the merits of Nato. It has kept the peace in western Europe and it was created by one of Labour’s greatest ever Foreign Secretaries, Ernest Bevin, because he and his generation came through the Second World War and wanted to keep the peace, and I hope we can have that debate in the party.”
However, he did seem to offer a compromise position by agreeing with some of Mr Corbyn’s criticism of the organisation.
The Deputy Leader said: “He’s worried about the eastern expansion of Nato and I think he’s right to be cautious on that front, but we’ve got to work this out.”
On the upcoming EU referendum, Mr Watson was clear how he would be voting, and said: “I will be a yes to Europe, definitely, and I hope we can convince the Labour Party and those sceptics in the Labour Party that that is where we need to be in the referendum.”
Mr Watson also said there was “zero chance” of Labour MPs mounting a coup against Mr Corbyn thanks to the overwhelming size of his victory.
The Islington North MP won 59.5 per cent of votes in the first ballot, an overwhelming victory.