Katy Balls Katy Balls

Watson-mania hits Labour conference

This year’s Labour conference is proving to be a rather sedated affair after a difficult few days for Jeremy Corbyn. Rather than Corbyn-mania taking hold of attendees, attendees report of a flat atmosphere following the high drama of John Lansman’s botched attempt to oust Tom Watson as deputy leader. After the first vote failed on Friday night, Jeremy Corbyn intervened to stop plans for a second vote. However, that hasn’t stopped internal rows – with infighting becoming the main story of conference so far and rumours growing over Corbyn’s exit.

There is one politician, however, who is clearly enjoying conference and that’s Watson. Watson allies are delighted with how this whole affair has turned out. ‘They are the ones who are crumbling,’ says a Labour figure of the Corbynistas. ‘They can’t come at him again for a while’. Meanwhile, Labour members report of frenzied scenes when ever Watson enters a room. ‘He’s being high-fived and clapped. I’ve never witnessed him being so popular,’ says one bemused attendee. Watson received a standing ovation at the Progress rally – before and after he spoke.

During his speech, Watson described Lansman as ‘the hitman who shot himself in the foot’. Labour’s deputy leader told the assembled crowd of moderates:

‘It is more important than ever before that progressives on the centre left are absolutely united as fully involved in shaping the future of our party.’

Commenting after Watson had exited the stage, former Labour spinner Ayesha Hazarika said: ‘Who thought Tom Watson would ever get a standing ovation at a Progress rally. F–k me. Life comes at you fast.’ The big moment will likely be Watson’s conference speech on Tuesday.

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