Labour’s Tom Watson makes case to be party’s deputy leader on Peterborough visit

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A candidate to be Labour’s next deputy leader came to Peterborough to hear why party members thought they had lost the recent general election.

Tom Watson visited Peterborough Museum at noon today (Monday, May 25) where he gave a quick speech before holding a closed-door meeting with activists.

The MP for West Bromwich East also backed calls from Labour’s Lisa Forbes, who fought the recent general election in Peterborough, to hold a Labour leadership debate in the city.

Four MPs are currently vying to be the party’s next leader, while Mr Watson is one of six to have put themselves forward as the next deputy leader.

Mr Watson told his audience: “It’s going to be very difficult over the next five years to come back from the defeat, but I think we can do it.

“Whoever you elect as leader, he or she is going to have to create a new policy direction that allows us to reach out to those millions of voters we lost in 2005, we didn’t convince to come back to us in 2010, and for some reason did not come back to us in 2015.”

Tom Watson speaking at Peterborough Museum

Tom Watson speaking at Peterborough Museum

On discussion with Labour members, Mr Watson said: “It was interesting, refreshing and candid.

“Members told me a lot about what they thought worked in the election and what did not.

“A lot of the members told me they wanted us to build community roots, that our party machine was too centralised and did not empower members on the ground.”

On Ms Forbes, who sits in Peterborough City Council and lost by less than 2,000 votes to Conservative Stewart Jackson in May’s election, he added: “I came up during the election to help Lisa on the doorstep.

“I thought she worked very, very hard and was committed in the area. I was disappointed she did not win.

“She gave her all and it was national conditions that meant she could not be successful.

“Peterborough is the kind of place where our future leaders in the Labour Party need to hear what they have to say.

“Having a leadership hustings here would be great.”

Mr Watson is up against Rushanara Ali, Stella Creasy, Ben Bradshaw, Angela Eagle and Caroline Flint to be Labour’s deputy leader.

The candidates to be the party’s leader are Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Mary Creagh and Liz Kendall.

More Speaker’s Corner: Labour city councillor Lisa Forbes “Involve city voters in choice of leader”.