UK Politics

Stop trashing Labour's record, warns Tom Watson

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Media captionLabour's deputy leader lists achievements of previous governments when it was in power.

Labour should stop trashing its record in government and start focusing on winning elections, deputy leader Tom Watson has warned.

In a speech to conference, Mr Watson said that attacking Tony Blair and Gordon Brown's governments "is not the way to enhance our brand".

"We won't win elections like that. And we need to win elections," he said, as he appealed for party unity.

Leader Jeremy Corbyn has been critical of parts of New Labour's record.

In other Labour conference developments:

Acknowledging the bitter infighting and splits in the Labour Party of late, Mr Watson said it "hasn't been the best few months of my 30 years in the Labour Party".

"We can't afford to keep doing this," he appealed, and said the British public could not afford for Labour to carry on as it has been either.

Referring to the recent disunity, he added: "I don't know why we've been focussing on what was wrong with the Blair and Brown governments for the past six years but trashing our record is not the way to enhance our brand.

"We won't win elections like that. And we need to win elections," he said, to prolonged applause and cheers.

He said the prime minister could call an early election at any time, and urged Labour: "Now is the time to be proud of our party. We have to believe we can win and remember how much we achieve when we do."

He said the 11 years of Labour government between 1997 and 2008 saw an "unbroken period of economic growth", and quoted at length the party's achievements.

In response to a heckler in the audience who shouted "What about Chilcot?", Mr Watson turned around to Mr Corbyn who was seated on the stage behind him and said: "Jeremy, I don't think she got the unity memo."

Appealing for change, Mr Watson said: "Capitalism is not the enemy, money is not the problem, business is not bad. The real world is more complicated than that."

He added: "I don't say this because it's what wins elections. I say it because it's true and people know that it's true. And that is why it wins elections.

"The British people need that from us," he adding, saying the Tories had been in power for seven years and would be for even longer unless Labour got its act together.

'Shambolic prevarication'

Mr Watson also aimed fire at the prime minister in his speech, claiming that Theresa May "isn't up to the job".

He accused her of "shambolic prevarication" over major policy issues, such as Hinkley Point, grammar schools and airport expansion and said she was "ducking responsibility" over Brexit.

"Ducking and diving, humming and hahing is not what you want from a prime minister," he said, adding: "Theresa May, or Theresa may not, who knows. But everyone knows you can't run a country like that."

He also said Mrs May - who took over from David Cameron as Tory leader and prime minister - had "no mandate".

"Nobody has voted for Mrs May to be prime minister and that's a pretty flimsy basis on which to try and hold the Tories together, never mind the country." he added.

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