tom watsonJim Pickard, the FT’s Chief Political Correspondent, reports that MP Tom Watson, who played a significant role in the ousting of Tony Blair, may be the party’s deputy leader by September.

In September 2006, after the Iraq war had ruined the Labour prime minister’s popularity, Mr Watson resigned as defence minister along with several other junior figures and published an open letter calling on Mr Blair to go.

He came to the attention of the general public after mounting a high-profile campaign against Rupert Murdoch over phone hacking and – later – over allegations of child sex abuse by powerful politicians.

Pickard reports that Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary, University of London, describes him as a “Marmite” character. “There are some people who absolutely love him . . . Then there are others who see him as a throwback to the bad old days of machine politics under Gordon Brown.”

Power-hungry? Union bound?

“It mostly seems to be about power with Watson, I would have more sympathy if his manoeuvres were for a bigger cause or purpose,” says one Labour MP. “He just sees politics as a game.” Friends reject that claim, pointing out that he has resigned three times from government or party positions. “Why would he walk away from power if it was so important to him?” says one. Critics answer that Mr Watson’s influence in the party is so great that he can wield power without needing a title.

Mr Watson’s union ties also came under close and damaging scrutiny in Pickard’s article.

The writer, as an outsider, simply notes that this MP, who spoke out against the Iraq war and the covering up of phone-hacking and child sex abuse, has made some very powerful enemies.

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