Labour Faces Divisions Over New Leader Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

LONDON, Sept 13 (Reuters) – Britain’s opposition Labour Party must unite behind new leader Jeremy Corbyn, his deputy said on Sunday as he revealed his own differences with his new boss over issues such as defence and foreign policy.

Left-wing veteran Corbyn [pictured above addressing the ‘Solidarity With Refugees’ demonstration in London after his victory] won the support of 59.5 percent of members and supporters but he has far less backing among Labour MPs, with several saying that the party cannot win the next election in 2020 if it lurches left.

“I understand the concern of my colleagues in parliament, this is a huge change for the party, there is no point in denying this a huge political realignment too but Jeremy Corbyn has got a huge mandate from our members,” Tom Watson, who was elected deputy leader on Saturday, told the BBC.

“I say to my colleagues watch this space, respect the mandate that he has been given from our members, try and unify.”

Watson said there was “zero chance” of a coup against Corbyn but acknowledged there were differences to overcome on policy, which he said could be put to the vote of Labour members.

At odds with the existing Labour position, anti-war campaigner Corbyn opposes the renewal of Britain’s Trident nuclear-armed submarine programme and has advocated withdrawing from the NATO military alliance.

“I need to be honest about where I stand on things, I think NATO has kept the peace in Europe for half a century,” Watson said, adding that he did not believe most members had backed Corbyn solely for his views on NATO.

“I aim to convince him of the merits of NATO … These things have got to be worked out.”

Watson, who backs the renewal of Trident, also said he would definitely be supporting Britain staying in the European Union at a referendum due by the end of 2017.

Read the rest of Kylie MacLellan’s piece here.