Tom Watson tells Labour rebels to get behind Jeremy Corbyn

Tom Watson meets Keir Whitehead on the campaign trail in Corstorphine. Picture: Scott Taylor

Tom Watson meets Keir Whitehead on the campaign trail in Corstorphine. Picture: Scott Taylor

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LABOUR politicians at Westminster are to be told to stop squabbling over Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership amid concerns their constant rowing will harm the party’s chances at the Holyrood elections.

UK deputy Labour leader Tom Watson said the Scottish party had an “exciting programme” to put to voters in May and there should be “no distractions”.

He was visiting Edinburgh yesterday and held talks with Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale and the party’s MSPs before going campaigning in Corstorphine.

He said: “What I’ve seen here is real optimism, real focus and a discipline from our MSPs that I wish we could have in all sections of the Labour Party.”

Asked about the damage to the party from the frequent attacks from within on Mr Corbyn, he said: “It’s not helpful for us.”

He continued: “Here you’ve a Scottish Labour Party with an exciting agenda about how you use new powers to achieve a more socially progressive county – and any row detracts from that.

“I was given a very clear message from our MSPs to take back to the UK Parliamentary Labour Party that they don’t want us to make it harder for them to get their message out. And I’m going to take that back to London.”

Ms Dugdale got rave reviews earlier in the week after she went to London and briefed the shadow cabinet on the upcoming Scottish elections.

Mr Watson said she had been “fantastic”.

He said: “She told us what the election strategy was. I’ve been around a while in the Labour Party, but it was a brilliant exposition of what Labour needs to do.

“And it wasn’t just the shadow cabinet. She addressed the national executive committee of the Labour Party which is a less high-profile body but a tougher audience to win and she went down very well.

“She has a very clear vision about where she wants to take Labour, she is really steely but she has formed a very close relationship with her colleagues in the parliament. Those are rare qualities.”

Mr Watson said all elections were important tests for parties and their leaders. He said: “We’ve got to signal that the hope is not extinguished that we can live in a fairer, more socially just country.

“Jeremy represents a change of direction, with a greater emphasis on anti-austerity as a party and we are united around that position.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com