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Tom Watson quits as deputy leader of UK Labour Party

“The decision is personal, not political,” Watson said in a shock announcement.

Tom Watson has clashed repeatedly with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (left).
Tom Watson has clashed repeatedly with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (left).
Image: Stefan Rousseau/PA Images

TOM WATSON HAS announced that he is stepping down as deputy leader of the UK Labour Party.

In a shock announcement, Watson said he would not be seeking re-election as an MP in the forthcoming general election.

In a letter to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, he said that the time had come to “start a different kind of life”.

“The decision is personal, not political,” he said.

“The last few years have been among the most transformational of my personal life, second only to becoming a proud father of two beautiful children.

“I’ve become healthy for the first time and I intend to continue with this work in the years to come.”

He said he would remain as deputy leader until polling day on 12 December and would be playing an “active part” in Labour’s election campaign.

Watson was elected to the position in 2015, at the same time as Corbyn was elected Labour leader.

Anti-Semitism 

During their time together at the top of the party the two men clashed repeatedly, with Watson, a former ally of Gordon Brown, becoming a focus for the “moderate” opposition in the party to Corbyn.

He was publicly critical of the leadership’s attempts to tackle anti-Semitism in the party and led moves to push it into supporting a second referendum on the EU, despite the entrenched resistance of the leader.

Most recently, he defied Corbyn by calling for the party to back a new public vote before the country went to the polls in a general election.

His opposition to Corbyn angered allies of the Labour leader and on the eve of the Labour Party conference in September; they made an unsuccessful attempt to oust him by abolishing the post of deputy leader.

In recent months he has faced intense criticism over his role in promoting the false claims of a Westminster paedophile ring made by the fantasist Carl Beech.

Beech’s allegations led to a number of public figures coming under police investigation, including the former home secretary, the late Lord Brittan of Spennithorne, the former head of the armed forces, Lord Bramall, and ex-Tory MP Harvey Proctor.

After facing calls to resign by some of those involved, he said that he was “very, very sorry” for the way events had turned out, but stopped short of apologising.

Separately, Lady Sylvia Hermon today confirmed she is standing down as an MP and will not run to retain the Westminster seat she has held for 18 years.

Hermon first won the North Down seat in 2001 as an Ulster Unionist. She left the party in 2010 after it agreed an electoral pact with the Conservative Party and since then has sat as an independent unionist.

In a statement to BBC News the 64-year-old said it had been a “particularly difficult” decision – but the right one for her family.

Contains reporting by Órla Ryan 

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