LABOUR Party deputy leader Tom Watson yesterday claimed that right wing shadow ministers who quit Labour’s front bench in a row over the party’s approach to Brexit should be back in top positions ‘within months’.
Watson said Jo Stevens, who quit as shadow Welsh secretary, had a ‘very great role to play’ in the future of the party. He told Sky News: ‘I hope that those colleagues who feel they need to leave the front bench because they feel strongly that they have to represent the interests of their voters don’t feel that this is the end. I hope that Jo Stevens will be back on the front benches in the months and years ahead.’
Watson said the party must take a sensible approach to dealing with the deep divisions among MPs over triggering Article 50. He added that Britain must be open-minded about US president Donald Trump’s economic policies. He hoped Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will meet Trump when he travels to the UK for a state visit later this year.
Watson said that even though Labour had opposed Brexit, it is backing the legislation to start the Article 50 process because it is a party of democrats. He said the UK should respond to Trump’s ‘buy American’ mantra with its own ‘buy British’ policy. The deputy Labour leader highlighted how the international trading agreements Trump is ripping up have also been opposed by unions because they stop countries from protecting workers.
However, Corbyn later warned shadow cabinet ministers not to expect to stay in their jobs if they vote against starting the process of leaving the EU. The Labour leader told ITV it was ‘impossible’ for members of his top team to remain in place if they rebelled against a three-line whip. Corbyn says he understands the pressures on MPs in pro-Remain constituencies but has called on them to unite around the important issues.
On the question of Trump, Corbyn said that: ‘Donald Trump should not be welcomed to Britain while he abuses our shared values with his shameful Muslim ban and attacks on refugees’ and women’s rights.’
Far from meeting Trump, Corbyn added: ‘Theresa May would be failing the British people if she does not postpone the state visit and condemn Trump’s actions in the clearest terms. That’s what Britain expects and deserves.’
This came in the wake of Trump’s executive order that halted the entire US refugee programme and also instituted a 90-day travel ban for nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Responding to May’s press conference in Turkey, Corbyn added: ‘After Trump’s hideous actions and May’s weak failure to condemn them, it’s more important than ever for us to say to refugees seeking a place of safety, that they will always be welcome in Britain.’