Boris Johnson to launch leadership bid

Your weekly update from Tom Watson MP, deputy leader of the Labour Party. 

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Word has reached me from the Commons' tea room that Boris Johnson is about to go public with a full-frontal leadership bid to topple Theresa May and install himself in Downing Street. 

Johnson, enabled by Tory election mastermind and new sidekick Lynton Crosby, has mapped out a timeline to power which will torpedo the PM's Chequers plan for Brexit. 

Having scanned the Trump playbook for inspiration (see letterbox attack on Muslim women), Johnson cleared the decks on his personal life after his marriage break-up story appeared in The Sun on Friday. 

I am told that Johnson's MP backers are now compiling the requisite 48 names required to send to the backbench 1922 Committee to trigger a no confidence vote in Mrs May. One source even says this will happen on Monday.  

Look out for Johnson's Monday column in the Telegraph (invoice £5,000 a time) in which many of his colleagues expect him to fire the gun. 

As we prepare for the extraordinary events which will unfold in the coming days and weeks, we should remind ourselves of a few things about Johnson. 

An Old Etonian imbued with the belief that it is his destiny to be PM, Johnson's life story is a catalogue of betrayal of friends and colleagues.  

He is the man who wrote two versions of his Brexit thoughts - one Remain and one Leave. He then signed up to Leave when his naked ambition to be PM won over his private view of what was best for our country. And he then, in full knowledge of the facts, led a campaign packed full of lies and falsehoods. 

I was struck by the analysis of journalist and historian Max Hastings who once wrote of Johnson:

If the day ever comes that Boris Johnson becomes tenant of Downing Street, I shall be among those packing my bags for a new life in Buenos Aires or suchlike, because it means that Britain has abandoned its last pretensions to be a serious country.” 

He is a man of sparkling wit and bonhomie. He is a talented communicator and writer. But Boris Johnson will never put this country before himself and is therefore unfit to be PM.

A change is gonna come


Facebook broke the law and allowed illegal data breaches during the EU referendum. Youtube has earned £160 billion off the back of other people's creativity and content. Local newspapers are going to the wall because tech platforms like Google have swallowed up online advertising revenues.

It’s now all too clear that the big tech giants are running rings around governments, legislators and regulators, and our government is unable, or unwilling, to deal with their market dominance.

That’s why, speaking in the House of Commons on Thursday, I announced that Labour will introduce a new, single powerful regulator for social media. It’s time we redressed the huge imbalance of power that the big tech giants hold over us.

You can watch my questions to DCMS Secretary Jeremy Wright in the House.




On the same day, I joined musicians and artists busking outside Google's HQ in protest at the way Youtube fleeces their content and their pockets.

The #LoveMusic group, featuring Ed Harcourt, Brett Anderson, Madeleina Kay, Crispin Hunt, Newton Faulkner, UK Music's Mike Dugher and many more, earned £2 in 5 minutes. That's the same as they'd earn from a quarter of a million views on Youtube.

We're calling on the EU Parliament to pass a new Copyright Directive next week which would mean internet giants paying for a licence to broadcast content. Not surprisingly, Google and co are fiercely fighting the proposal.

You can watch the busking and an interview with me here.

A pleasure of a story


My favourite tale of the week was about astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell who in 1974 was controversially overlooked (in favour of her male supervisor) for the Nobel Prize - despite her key role in identifying pulsars in the cosmos.

Now it has been announced that Dame Jocelyn has won the Breakthrough award for her pulsars work and a lifetime of inspiring leadership in the scientific community.

It's the most lucrative award in modern science, carrying a prize of £2.3m. Brilliantly, Dame Jocelyn is donating the money to fund PhD studentships for people underrepresented in physics.

I was thinking what a truly great Briton she is when I also found out that the first pulsar she discovered “CP 1919” was the inspiration behind the iconic cover of one my all time favourite albums. That makes Dame Jocelyn an absolute legend as far I am concerned. Here's the album... *


Right to party

The runaway winner of video of the week has to be this clip from inside the dressing room after Scotland qualified for the World Cup. It was a dramatic, nerve-shredding, tear-jerker of a win. And, I’m guessing, a great party!


About turn on austerity

The seminal IPPR report on economic justice rightly demands a hand-brake turn in the way our country is run - to end the blight of chronic inequality fuelled by years of Tory austerity.

It calls for a Real Living Wage, higher taxes on the rich and their unearned income, workers on boards, devolved powers to the regions, and huge investment in an industrial strategy to deal with automation and the digital revolution.

It's a brilliant manifesto for change and one that only a radical Labour government - with fairness and justice at its heart - can deliver.

Just doing it

Nike has had its issues over the years, but credit where it's due - it's done a fantastic thing in making Colin Kaepernick, the first NFL player to take a knee, the face of a new campaign.

Kaepernick has borne the brunt of Donald Trump's fury at the anti-racism protests, and he's stuck to his principles. He, unlike his President, reminds the world of the finest American values.









The arts of disappearance


Music, drama and the arts - core creative subjects - are all disappearing from the classroom because of this government's blinkered view of what our children's education should look like. Soon they will be be just the preserve of the rich.

To mark an event hosted by Prince Charles, I re-affirmed that Labour in government will introduce an Arts Premium, giving schools £160m a year to invest in projects, and review the EBacc to put creativity back on the curriculum.

I told The Guardian: “Every child, no matter what their background, should be able to access the wonder and enjoyment that arts and creative endeavours bring.

“There is no sense in the course the Government has taken. As soon as Labour is in Government we will put it right by putting creativity and arts back at the heart of children’s education.”

The fightback starts here…


On the positive side I was able to send a congratulatory message to the wonderful team behind the new “Our Biennale” Children’s and Young People’s Arts Festival taking place in Kirklees, West Yorkshire this Autumn.

You can check their events out here.









Thanks, Alastair


Alastair Cook, who announced his retirement from international cricket, says he will "never underestimate how special it is to pull on an England shirt".

Cook carried the mantle of captain - even through the tough times - with the same grace and elegance that he carried his bat throughout his record-breaking career.

He has been a fine advocate for cricket in general and English cricket in particular around the world. He thoroughly deserves his place in the pantheon of the greats of the sport.


Thanks to everyone who joined in and supported my #nospaceforhate campaign which launched last Sunday. I’m thrilled with the positive response and am really hopeful together we can change the tone of political discourse on social media. Please keep using the hashtag and the image wherever you see hate.


* In case it’s irritating you…





The album cover inspired by Dame Jocelyn’s CP 1919 pulsar was Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures from 1979. Remarkably for a debut album, the cover features no title or band name. For aficiandos of these sort of things, I found this brilliant piece in Scientific American. Have a listen here.