Support 100 years of independent journalism.

Why did Labour abandon its plan to elect a female deputy leader?

Jeremy Corbyn’s office is said to have feared the post could be used to undermine his leadership. 

By George Eaton

Until this morning, Labour was set to create the new post of female co-deputy leader. The move, which was approved by the party’s National Executive Committee on Saturday, was widely interpreted as an attempt to further marginalise Tom Watson, the existing deputy (who has clashed with Corbynites over anti-Semitism and Brexit).

But in a piece of conference farce, Wirral West Constituency Labour Party, which submitted the motion, has now withdrawn it. The suspicion among party sources is that Corbyn’s office feared the election of a “soft left” candidate, such as Emily Thornberry or Angela Rayner (rather than, say, Rebecca Long-Bailey) or a “Peoples Vote” supporter, could undermine his leadership. Watson, by contrast, backed the plan at the NEC meeting (leading to even greater suspicions).

Wirral West delegate Angela Marincowitz-Skillen told the conference there had been “disturbing reports that those who want to divide our party … want to use this as a way to do it.” She added: “Making an election for a new deputy leader about Brexit, about a new centre party or whatever project to sow disunity. I want to say to those people, members are sick of this sectarian game.”

The outcome leaves Labour, once again, with an all-male leadership team. Critics on left and right will enjoy observing that, far from electing its first female leader in 118 years, the party won’t even elect a female deputy.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

Content from our partners
How automation can help telecoms companies unlock their growth potential
The pandemic has had a scarring effect on loneliness, but we can do better
Feel confident gifting tech to your children this Christmas