The deputy leader of Britain’s main opposition party has admitted the party is in crisis, and called on party leader Jeremy Corbyn personally to tackle anti-Semitism in the party.
Tom Watson, speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr, said that he had fielded 50 complaints about alleged anti-Semitism within the party, and issued a challenge for Corbyn to make a “personal intervention” to address all 50 of them.
“There’s almost a sort of crisis for the soul of the Labour party now,” Watson said, looking back on a week in which nine Labour MPs quit the party, including eight of them joining The Independent Group.
Issuing a direct challenge to Corbyn, Watson said: “Jeremy needs to understand that if we’re going to be in No. 10 [Downing Street] that he needs to change the Labour Party.”
Corbyn and Watson have publicly disagreed in recent days about the scale of bullying and anti-Semitism within the Labour party.
Watson went on to say he is considering forming a faction of centrist Labour MPs to push moderate positions that are not represented on Corbyn’s current front bench.
“I’m standing up for pluralism in our ranks because that’s the only way we’ll hold our party together,” Watson said.
Labour MP Wes Streeting, a declared moderate, tweeted his support for Watson.
Corbyn has also faced significant criticism from moderate Labour MPs and party members for what they perceive as a lack of leadership on Brexit.
Watson also told the BBC that the Labour party is moving toward backing a second Brexit referendum.