Did Glastonbury tip Tom Watson into resignation?


3:18 pm - July 4th 2013

by Newswire    


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Now that Tom Watson has left Labour’s shadow cabinet, it’s worth noting that he mentions Glastonbury prominently in his resignation letter.

To get a real insight into what tipped Tom Watson over the edge then, it may be worth reading Watson’s recent review of Glastonbury.

Here are the key paragraphs:

One day down and I was feeling listless. No band had really hit home. It felt tame. Then it happened. I was seized with those fragmentary moments of pure music joy that festival goers live for. I found Drenge. Two brothers on a drum kit and lead guitar. I’m 46 years old. I should be reading submissions from the marketing people or approving some clever kid’s idea for a new campaign. But I’m in a field in Glastonbury falling in love with a bloke barely in his twenties playing the guitar like a mid-west cyclone. There were times when it was impossible to distinguish the instrument from the man; such was the intensity of his relationship to the guitar. More. The crowd want more. For a second I reflected that I couldn’t imagine many of my colleagues – the shadow defence secretary, for instance – sharing in this communal love. The absurdity of the situation was not lost.

And yet in the euphoria, I get a sense of understanding that I’d missed in the leftfield debate the previous day. It’s been missing from the Labour Party since Tony Blair marched us into the arid desert of pragmatism that was so electorally successful. It’s belief. Belief in ourselves. Belief in the great cause of social progress. The marketing men, the spin people and the special advisers: they’ve won. For those brief minutes of Drenge I wanted to sack them all.

The emphasis is mine.

Tom Watson will be a good ally in the war against austerity and to push Labour on the side of belief, passion and social progress – even if the letter was badly timed and the resignation a sad indictment of his attempts to change the party from within.

The resignation letter in full

—–

Ed Miliband MP
Leader of the Opposition
House of Commons
London
SW1A 0AA
4nd July 2013

Dear Ed,

I said that I’d stay with you as general election co-ordinator within the Shadow Cabinet as long as I was useful. I think it would be a good idea for you, and me, if I stood down from the role now.

As you know, I offered my resignation on Tuesday and you asked me to reconsider. I’ve thought about it and still feel it is better for you and the future unity of the party that I go now. There are some who have not forgiven me for resigning in 2006. I fully accept the consequences of that decision and genuinely hope my departure allows the party to move on.

Yet it’s not the unattributed shadow cabinet briefings around the mess in Falkirk that has convinced me that the arrangement has run its course (though they don’t help). I believe that the report should be published – in full – and the whole truth told as soon as possible so that the record can be made clear. I’ve still not seen the report but believe there are an awful lot of spurious suppositions being written.

I wish to use the backbenches to speak out in areas of personal interest: open government and the surveillance state, the digital economy, drones and the future of conflict, the child abuse inquiries, the aftermath of the Murdoch scandal and grass roots responses to austerity.

Having resigned a couple of times before, I know how puckish lobby hacks might choose to misconstrue the departure. So to make it harder for them let me say this: I’m proud of your Buddha-like qualities of patience, deep thought, compassion and resolve. I remain your loyal servant. I’ll always be on hand to help you if you need me. I just don’t think you need me in the Shadow Cabinet any more. After nearly thirty years of this, I feel like I’ve seen the merry-go-round turn too many times. Whereas the Shadow Cabinet’s for people who still want to get dizzy.

You have it in you to be an outstanding Labour Prime Minister. The road ahead is always rocky but I will be with you all of the way, cheering you on from the backbenches. You’re my friend and leader, and I’m going to do all I can to make sure you win in 2015.

Here’s my parting thought:

John Humphrys asked me why you were not at Glastonbury this weekend. I said Labour leaders can’t be seen standing in muddy fields listening to bands. And then I thought how terribly sad that this is true. So: be that great Labour leader that you can be, but try to have a real life too. And if you want to see an awesome band, I recommend Drenge.

Yours sincerely,

Tom Watson
Member of Parliament for West Bromwich East

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Reader comments


1. sean westall

hahaha yes big up Drenge!!!!

Nah, Public Enemy. They’re boss.

I was at the Glastonbury austerity debate (I asked the last question, directed at Tom).

The anti-Labour atmosphere was palpable. My question was basically why Labour should be in a Leftfield debate at all, since they are no longer left wing. Tom was saying ‘stick with us – we might change!’ and the point is there’s already a left wing party unafraid to call itself socialist – the Greens. It’s time to give up on Labour and vote for a party that actually represents us. I think that was the general feeling on the (packed) tent, and poor Tom did get a bit of a hard time.

I felt a bit sorry for him because he’s one of the good guys, but Labour isn’t changing any time soon. He should join the Greens – he’d be much happier.

4. Baton Rouge

Agree with you about New Labour but the Greens are just a variation on the liberal theme. They are far more interested in power than principles and have no interest in socialism whatsoever. Whenever they do get into power they act in the same way as all the others. Doesn’t mean we can occasionally bloc on issues but the Greens will not be liberating the wage slaves any time soon.

As for Tom Watson Glasto clearly was some kind of epiphany perhaps coming on top of New Labour’s recent conversion to Tory austerity plus and he finally said enough’s enough.

The Greens don’t call themselves socialists at all – where did you get that idea? The vast majority aren’t and when it comes to having some power locally, look how they behave. Tell GMB members in Brighton how socialist the Greens are.

Greens certainly do proudly call themselves socialists. Having a helluva job in Brighton working to clear up historic sexist pay settlements while in minority and while being squeezed by Pickles is not precisely absolute power. And you have no credibility with me if you think a) that they’re not a credible party to the left of Labour or b) that anyone else is.

7. the a&e charge nurse

this is not my beautiful party
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1wg1DNHbNU

As a Green I can tell you that we are definitely proud to call ourselves Socialist. Caroline Lucas has said as much many, many times.

We gave party policies that proper Old Labour supporters can only dream about – renationalisation, living wage, higher taxes on the rich, scrapping Trident.

As for Brighton, we are obliged by law to end disparity in pay that was ignored by the other parties. There would be no strike if Labour councillors hadn’t blocked a rise in Council Tax to pay the wages. Brighton is all about the petty politics of the old parties for Labour, not helping the people (or the unions). They are simply blocking the (minority) Green council at every turn on everything. Infantile.

9. Churm Rincewind

For what it’s worth, Tom Watson has always struck me to be at his best as a gadfly (or an attack dog, take your pick).

Sometimes he’s on the button, and sometimes he’s way off. In short, he’s a natural backbencher.

The Glastonbury stuff is just the sentimental twaddle of a middle-aged man.

“The Glastonbury stuff is just the sentimental twaddle of a middle-aged man.”

That sentence has more baggage than Malaga Airport.

we are obliged by law to end disparity in pay

I had no idea people doing the same job in Brighton were being paid different amounts…

12. Robin Levett

@Cylux #11:

I had no idea people doing the same job in Brighton were being paid different amounts…

And therein lies precisely the problem that the Equal Pay Act and the Single Status Agreement were designed to resolve. At one level: change some job description wording, swap a couple of duties around and suddenly you’d got a “different” job that you could “legitimately” pay different wages for. Oddly enough, it would usually be women that got the short end of that.

At another level; this job – A – is done predominantly by men. This other job – B – which on any sensible analysis is of equal worth to the business and requires equivalent exertion/brainpower/pick your criterion as job A is done predominantly by women. Because they are “different” jobs, you pay job A more than job B (rarely would it be the other way around); generally for historical reasons (as in from the time when the man of the house was the sole breadwinner and the woman worked for pin-money) intensified by pressure from the men doing job A to maintain their differentials.

@12 So it’s not a case of say bin men, who do a dirty, smelly, physically demanding job compared with say office work, being more rewarded to make up for that fact then?

@13 Office work? What about, say, care home workers? That’s a job that can be dirty, smelly, and is physically and emotionally demanding. It is paid at almost the mimimum wage – far less than the relatively easy job of being a bin man. It’s also predominantly done by women.

@14 It’s also a job that can have it’s quite easy moments, such as when my nan tucked her hungover care home worker in for a couple hours kip on her couch.

What’s the equivalent, lightly filled bin liners?

Dudes, you backed cuts in Brighton. You were in power, with a vote, and you voted for cuts.

Hush with the pretending to be on the left, now. It’s ridiculous.

Not least with Caroline Lucas getting stuck into strikebreaking (i.e. being a scab). You aren’t socialists.

And in case anyone thinks I’m making that up (and I honestly was pretty shocked, what with Lucas being held up as this exemplary leftist by the Greens all the bloody time), see here:

https://twitter.com/CarolineLucas/status/346727750104662017 (Where she actually RTs about her scabbing!)

https://www.facebook.com/notes/support-brighton-council-workers/statement-on-community-clean-ups/383352648437026

@16 Oh? And what party do you support, oh wise one? There is no mainstream party to the left of the Greens,

As for Caroline ‘striekbreaking’, that’s nonsense – you are aware that she’s standing with the strikers and has given them her unequivocal support?

You also seem to have ignored the fact that Brighton has only been forced into this pay dispute because Labour keep voting with the Tories against them. How is that progressive again?

Which councils have committed to a living wage? Which council has pledged that nobody will face eviction because of the bedroom tax? Brighton. The only Green council in the UK is the most progressive, however much Labour might hate it and are doing everything in their power to disrupt it.

Face it, Labour’s time as a ‘left wing’ party ended ten years ago. They are playing infantile party politics in Brighton and should be ashamed. Anyone who calls themselves a socialist and casts a Labour vote is severely deluded.

19. Planeshift

Rhondda Cynon Taff council – labour controlled. Just introduced zero hour contracts for staff in care homes.

I could be here all night with similar examples.

All it would prove is that when political parties run councils, the vast majority turn out to contain little hitlers who are under the thumbs of their officials. There is a reason so many pieces of legislation impose duties on local authorities – because it’s the only way you’ll ever get them to do something.

20. Charlieman

@13. Cylux: “@12 So it’s not a case of say bin men, who do a dirty, smelly, physically demanding job compared with say office work, being more rewarded to make up for that fact then?”

The back breaking nature of a bin job has largely been removed by technology (eg wheelie bins which are hydraulically emptied into a lorry). I acknowledge that there are some bin jobs that are more physical (eg furniture disposal) which might deserve additional pay. And rubbish is smelly.

Office cleaning is a physical job. Technology has not made the job much easier (OK, vacuum cleaners are lighter) but toilets still stink. Recycling requires that separate waste bags are carried around a building rather than dumped down a chute.

I dunno whether the two jobs are worth the same wage, but they are more alike than twenty years ago. Endurance of shift may be a factor to consider: six hours outdoors on the bins (with two hours at the depot) versus two/three hours cleaning indoors. How much do you have to pay a bin collector in Brighton that s/he does not get a job in Chichester?

21. So Much For Subtlety

But I’m in a field in Glastonbury falling in love with a bloke barely in his twenties playing the guitar like a mid-west cyclone. There were times when it was impossible to distinguish the instrument from the man; such was the intensity of his relationship to the guitar. More. The crowd want more. For a second I reflected that I couldn’t imagine many of my colleagues – the shadow defence secretary, for instance – sharing in this communal love.

Sounds more like drugs than Glastonbury.

Remember kids, don’t post anything after taking the little Dutch pill with the big “E” on it. You sound like a right prat.

22. Robin Levett

@Cylux:

Single Status Agreement; do you know what it is, and how it was arrived at?

23. Man on the Clapham Omnibus

I think this is probably once of the most deep articles I have read. I mean, wow man we all sat around a table and Ed
passed this stuff around and before we knew it, it was 2016!
And we’d lost!

Maybe a little policy discussion might be in order!

24. Man on the Clapham Omnibus

5. Doug

The question is can you be Socialist and broke? The answer is no.

The last thing the country needs is a government of immature philistine man-boys like Tom Watson. Judging people by how hip they are to some band is the kind of thing previously associated with teenage girls, not grown-up government ministers. Britain deserves better than being ruled by people unable to shake off a student mentality who act as if their career is no more than a groovy prolonged gap year.

26. Planeshift

We can certainly tell who the Susan Boyle fans are on this thread 😉

“genuinely hope my departure allows the party to move on”

It’s not just about you Tom?! Still, at least your way groovy.

Judging people by how hip they are to some band is the kind of thing previously associated with teenage girls, not grown-up government ministers. Britain deserves better than being ruled by people unable to shake off a student mentality who act as if their career is no more than a groovy prolonged gap year.

Well Labour does have form what with the Cool Britannia period…

Labour must reconnect with actual earth people, not neo-liberal McKinsey-ites. There are alternatives – SNP, for example.


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