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In a letter published to Twitter, Watson – who had become widely disliked amongst supporters of the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – stated that his decision to quit full-time politics after 35 years was “personal, not political“.
After 35 years in full-time politics, I've decided to step down and will be campaigning to overcome the Tory-fuelled public health crisis. I'm as committed to Labour as ever. I will spend this election fighting for brilliant Labour candidates and a better future for our country. pic.twitter.com/qGqiKTJ6br
— Tom Watson (@tom_watson) November 6, 2019
The now former Labour Deputy leader also stated that he would continue to devote his time to continue to his political interests such as “gambling reform, music and arts, stopping press intrusion, obesity and public health and of course horticulture and cycling.“
Responding to the announcement, the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn stated that he was “very sorry” to see Watson leave the party and added that “Few people have given as much to the Labour movement as you have“.
Watson has represented the constituency of West Bromwich East since 2001, and it is currently unclear who the party will select as a replacement candidate for the upcoming election.
Watson has also served as the Labour Party’s Deputy Leader for four years since 2015, and established himself as a controversial figure among the party membership during this time, routinely expressing public disagreements with the leadership and issuing statements which directly contradict Labour policy.
Watson also narrowly avoided being removed from his position during the Labour Party conference in September, with Jeremy Corbyn deciding to personally intervene in the situation, urging members of Labour’s ruling body, the NEC, against pushing forward with a vote on a motion to effectively abolish Watson’s position.
It is widely believed that the Labour Party will wait until after December’s General Election to replace Mr Watson as Deputy Leader, and that an all-female shortlist is likely to be proposed.
Popular Labour MPs such as Rebecca Long-Bailey, Laura Pidcock, Dawn Butler and Angela Rayner have all previously been tipped as potential future successors to Mr Watson as Deputy Leader of the Party.
Given the make-up of the Labour membership, it is also widely-expected that the successful candidate will this time be from the left of the party and highly supportive of both Jeremy Corbyn and the party’s socialist policy direction.