Corbyn wants deputy role split after failed bid to oust Watson

22 September 2019, 02:47 | Updated: 22 September 2019, 07:34

Jeremy Corbyn has said he would like to divide the role of Labour deputy leader and remove some of the power his number two yields.

His words come after controversy over the position of current deputy leader Tom Watson.

An attempt led by the head of the Corbyn-supporting Momentum group to scrap Mr Watson's position was abandoned on the first day of the party's annual conference in Brighton on Saturday.

Mr Corbyn, whom Mr Watson has clashed with in the past on Brexit and Labour's handling of antisemitism claims, has told the Sunday Mirror: "I told the national executive we need to review how the deputy leadership works and have an election process for two deputy leaders in the future which reflects diversity within our society, so one would be a woman.

"It was agreed overwhelmingly."

Mr Corbyn added: "Tom is the elected deputy leader of the party and so has an important role to play.

"I work with him and he's done very well on media reform, online gambling and exposing the way sugar has a deleterious affect on our lives."

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Other developments at the party conference on day two include:

  • Andrew Fisher, head of policy and the author of the party's last manifesto, has left his job - with The Sunday Times reporting he denounced Mr Corbyn's team for their "lack of professionalism, competence and human decency" in a memo.
  • Labour wants a car scrappage scheme which would see cars older than 10 years and running on fossil fuels able to be traded in for a £2,000 discount on a new electric vehicle. The discount would be funded by the government and manufacturers.
  • The party will announce its intention to abolish prescription charges in England. Prescriptions are already free in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but cost £9 each for those in England who do not qualify for an exemption.
  • Schools inspectorate Ofsted will be replaced by a two-phase inspection system, it will be announced. Education providers would get regular "health checks" by local government and more in-depth inspections led by Her Majesty's Inspectors.

It was also revealed that Labour could head into a general election campaign without a clear position on which side it would support in a second Brexit referendum.

A policy statement put forward by Mr Corbyn to the National Executive Committee said Labour would strike a new deal with Brussels within three months and then put it to another public vote.

The party's position in that referendum would be settled in a special conference after an election.

Mr Corbyn has denied suggestions he is sitting on the fence when it comes to Brexit, saying "leadership comes from listening".

Labour grandee Margaret Beckett, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey and shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth will be on Sky News' Sophy Ridge on Sunday from 8.30am.