Speaking to GQ magazine, Watson was asked by interviewer Alastair Campbell how frequently he discussed strategy and policy with Corbyn.
“I am not on his strategy committee,” Watson replied. Asked by Campbell who was, Watson said: “I don’t know,” prompting a response of “What? That’s incredible.”
Watson explained that this was the chosen leadership method for Corbyn following his re-election last year after a challenge from Owen Smith. Watson had previously tried and failed to broker a deal that would lead to Corbyn stepping down amid a rebellion by a majority of Labour MPs.
“That is how he is going to lead,” Watson said. “That second election means he is the established leader. I am in the NEC and in the shadow cabinet, but nobody should be in any doubt it will be his manifesto. He will lead in developing those policies and I will support him.”
Earlier this week, one of Corbyn’s key backers, the head of the Unite union, Len McCluskey, said he believed the Labour leader might have to step down if opinion poll ratings remained so unfavourable before a 2020 election.
However, Watson told GQ he expected Corbyn to remain in place for the next election. Asked by Campbell if that was a good thing, he replied: “It doesn’t matter, that is the situation.”
Watson continued: “I made my position clear, gave private counsel, based on the fact it was difficult to lead without the confidence of a majority of MPs, but he took a different view, the membership backed him and we have to respect that.”
Relations between the pair were known to be difficult, but Watson’s comments spell out how little input he has into the direction of the party.
A report into Labour’s current woes released on Tuesday by the Fabian Society, which predicted it could slip to as few as 140 MPs at the next election, noted how the party appeared oddly passive about its fate.
After Corbyn triumphed against Smith, his team had produced “no road map” for overcoming Labour’s plight, said Andrew Harrop, the Fabian Society’s general secretary, while the wider parliamentary Labour party had become “barely audible”.
“In place of the sound and fury of Jeremy Corbyn’s first 12 months, there is quietude, passivity and resignation,” he said. “And on Brexit, the greatest political question for two generations, the party’s position is muffled and inconsistent. This is the calm of stalemate, of insignificance, even of looming death.”
This article was written by Peter Walker Political correspondent, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 4th January 2017 10.03 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
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