Tom Watson: Jess Phillips could set Labour leadership race ‘alight’

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Former deputy Labour leader Tom Watson has praised Jess Phillips’ leadership bid, telling talkRADIO the backbencher “has got star quality”.

The Ex-MP spoke exclusively with Eamonn Holmes about which candidate he thinks has the best chance of replacing Jeremy Corbyn.

On Ms Phillips, he said the Birmingham Yardley MP is a “brilliant natural communicator” and is “charismatic and witty”.

“They describe her as the maverick candidate, which obviously I quite like having been a maverick over the years in politics – whether she could build a base in the party is yet to be heard but I think she could set the thing alight.”

While Mr Watson admitted he had not yet decided who he will vote for, he acknowledged that shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer remains the favourite in the polls.

WATCH: Tom Watson says Sir Keir Starmer has 'obviously got a great brain'

“The members respect him, he’s very good on his feet in the Chamber, he’s obviously got a great brain, so I would imagine that he’s probably going to be the frontrunner for the race.”

He dubbed shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey as the “continuity Corbyn candidate” and said the vote for shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry risked being “squeezed” by fellow north London candidate Sir Keir.

Mr Watson said he had “absolutely no regrets” about quitting politics ahead of the December general election.

Asked whether he felt betrayed by the attempt to oust him at the party conference in Manchester, he said “I just laughed because I kind of knew how incomprehensibly stupid it was”.

Going forward he said all candidates must “explain why Labour keeps losing elections”.

His parting words of advice were: “Be honest about what you think the party has to do to change this country for good.

“Don’t try to play to the membership, talk to the country.”

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