Less than an hour after the announcement, Daniel Janner, the son of the late Labour MP Lord Janner who was one of the victims of the VIP abuse probe sparked by Carl Beech, said Tom Watson’s position had become “untenable”. A statement issued by the Labour Party said Mr Watson would continue to campaign for Labour in the run-up to the election on December 12. The decision comes just weeks after Mr Corbyn intervened to stop a plot to abolish the post of deputy leader at the party’s annual conference, which would have effectively fired Mr Watson.
In a letter to Mr Corbyn, Mr Watson insisted his decision was “personal, not political”.
He added: “It’s hard to find words to express my deep gratitude to the people who trusted me to fight their corner.
“The Black Country is the very best of Britain.
Tom Watson is stepping down as Labour deputy leader
“Communities who look out for their neighbours, who want to get on but not at the expense of others.
“And the people who make up this area are the most honest and decent you’ll find anywhere in the world.
“The last few years have been among the most transformational of my personal life, second only to becoming a proud father of two beautiful children.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn paid tribute to Mr Watson
“I’ve become healthy for the first time, and I intend to continue with this work in the years to come.
“I want to thank you for the decency and courtesy you have shown me over the last four years, even in difficult times.
“Our many shared interests are less well known than our political differences, but I will continue to devote myself to the things we often talk about: gambling reform, music and arts, stopping press intrusion, obesity and public health and of course horticulture and cycling.”
Tom Watson this evening tweeted his letter to Jeremy Corbyn
I respect your conclusion that it is in the best interests of you and your family that you stand down
Mr Corbyn responded: “Few people have given as much to the Labour movement as you have and I know that many thousands of members and trade unionists that you have inspired and worked with over the years will be very sorry to see you go.
“Being an MP and Deputy Leader of our Party is far more than a job and I understand how difficult this decision has been for you to make and how deeply you have thought about it.
“I respect your conclusion that it is in the best interests of you and your family that you stand down.
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“Although you are stepping down, I know we will continue to work together on the issues you have always championed and which we share a passion for: taking on the vested interests of the Murdoch empire, the sugar industry and the gambling companies, and standing up for the rights and interests of the people of this country.
“I am proud and glad to have worked with you over these four years and I know this is not the end of our work together.”
During their time together at the top of the party the two men clashed repeatedly, with Mr Watson, a former ally of Gordon Brown, becoming a focus for the “moderate” opposition in the party to Mr Corbyn.
He was publicly critical of the leadership’s attempts to tackle anti-Semitism in the party and led moves to push it into supporting a second referendum on the EU, despite the entrenched resistance of the leader.
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Mr Watson has been criticised for his support of Carl Beech, who made false sex abuse allegations
Mr Watson was elected MP for West Bromwich East in the West Midlands in 2001, a seat he has held ever since.
After Beech was convicted in 2019 for making false claims of paedophilia, Mr Watson was criticised by several profile victims and their relatives for his role in the affair, with former MP Harvey Proctor calling him the “cheerleader-in-chief”.
Mr Janner has been a fierce critic of Mr Watson who he has previously accused of applying “pressure on the police”.
He said: “Tom Watson whipped up the post-Savile hysteria which damaged falsely accused innocent prominent figures like my late father Lord Janner. His position had become untenable. He has stood down because he would have been defeated. “
Former Tory MP Harvey Proctor
In terms of Brexit, Mr Watson’s wholehearted commitment to a “confirmatory vote” prior to a general election put him at odds with other senior party figures including Mr Corbyn and shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer.
Mr Corbyn told the BBC: “Tom’s view – I don’t accept it and I don’t agree with it, our priority is to get a general election in order to give the people a chance to elect a government that cares for them, not themselves.”
Mr Watson may also have been conscious of the 2016 referendum result in West Midlands East, where more than 68 percent backed Leave.
The constituency is believed to be one of the Conservative Party’s top targets next month.
Mr Proctor said Labour’s Tom Watson “has done his constituents a great favour” by stepping down.
The fomer Tory MP for Basildon from 1979 to 1983, and for neighbouring Billericay from 1983 to 1987, said he had now abandoned his plans to run against Mr Watson in next month’s General Election.
He said: “By standing down Tom Watson has done his constituents a great favour. The next parliament will be a healthier place without him.
“Although this is not the end of it for Tom Watson, I feel vindicated.
“I can now confirm I will not be standing in the West Bromwich East constituency at the General Election. “