LABOUR’S split over the timing of a General Election has reopened, after the party’s deputy leader Tom Watson called for a change of tack.

In a speech yesterday, he warned that only a second referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU could break the deadlock in Parliament, not a General Election.

He urged the party’s leadership to call a so-called People’s Vote before going to the country and to “unambiguously and unequivocally back Remain”.

It was a startling speech given that Watson is supposedly a member of the Labour Party’s leadership.

His call is contrary to Labour’s position which is to back an election as soon as a No-Deal Brexit is taken off the table. While Labour will go into an election campaign with a commitment to holding another EU referendum, Jeremy Corbyn made clear on Tuesday that his party will offer voters a “credible” leave option.

Cobryn said: “It’s Tom’s view, I don’t accept it and I don’t agree with it, our priority is for a General Election”

The leader of trade union Unite, Len McCluskey, was less polite. Watson’s views, he said, “don’t really matter”.

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In his speech, Watson said while an autumn General Election seemed inevitable “that does not make it desirable.”

He added: “Boris Johnson has already conceded that the Brexit crisis can only be solved by the British people but the only way to break the Brexit deadlock once and for all is a public vote in a referendum. A General Election might well fail to solve this Brexit chaos.”

If a General Election comes first, Watson said Labour’s position should be “totally clear” that: “We must unambiguously and unequivocally back Remain.”

He added: “There is no such thing as a good Brexit deal, which is why I believe we should advocate for Remain. That is what the overwhelming majority of Labour Party members, MPs and trade unions believe.

“My experience on the doorsteps tells me most of those who have deserted us over our Brexit policy did so with deep regret and would greatly prefer to come back; they just want us to take an unequivocal position that whatever happens we’ll fight to remain, and to sound like we mean it. It would be easy to be 400,000 voices sounding like we mean it, because we do. And if we did it we could win, whereas if we don’t I fear we won’t.”

Speaking to the BBC, Corbyn said a General Election is Labour’s “priority”. He said: “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.”

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He added: “We will negotiate a credible Leave deal and then decide. The point of great importance is that the people themselves will be able to make that decision. But there will be no No-Deal exit from the EU with all the problems that will cause.”

McCluskey suggested Watson’s intervention would have little or no impact. He and Watson used to be close friends, sharing a flat when they were younger. But the two men have fallen out spectacularly since the Brexit referendum.

The union leader suggested Watson was “languishing on the fringes” of the party.

“It’s sad,” McCluskey told the BBC. “Now and again Tom pops up from where he has been hiding and comes up with something … which is normally to try and undermine his leader. I don’t know why he does it. Fewer and fewer people listen to him.”

McCluskey added: “His views do not really matter any more. What matters is getting ready for a General Election in which Labour can offer a real choice to the British people to mend this broken Britain.”

Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer insisted the party was “united around the idea that there should be a referendum” on the outcome of Brexit.

He said: “We should have a referendum in our manifesto and also that remain should be one of the options. We’re united around the idea there should be a referendum on any outcome this government puts forward.”

Starmer added: “At the moment, there’s a good discussion going on but we’re very united.”

Like Corbyn, Watson was directly elected by the party membership and has his own mandate.