The 52-year-old, who stood down as an MP before the general election on December 21, also said he backed Owen Smith’s leadership challenge three years ago, despite being leader Jeremy Corbyn’s deputy. The ex-minister, who represented the West Bromwich East constituency until the general election earlier this month, said he thought it was “time to take a leap” and “do something different”. He told the Guardian conditions within the party were partly responsible for making his political career unsustainable.
Mr Watson explained: “Two weeks before I resigned, a guy was arrested for giving me a death threat. He was a Labour supporter.
“The police got in touch and said, ‘We’ve arrested this guy’, assuming I knew about it. But I didn’t.
“The Labour party had sent out a fundraising email that he had responded to with a death threat.”
Mr Watson, who is now retraining as a gym instructor, added: “The party reported it to the police, but didn’t tell me.”
Jeremy Corbyn with Tom Watson at the Labour Party conference
Tom Watson stood down as MP for West Bromwich East before the election
The point is that the brutality and hostility is real and it’s day to day
Asked why the information had not been relayed to him, he said: “I have no idea – it’s neither here nor there now.
“The point is that the brutality and hostility is real and it’s day to day.
“So I just thought, now’s the time to take a leap, do something different.
“You’ve had a good innings. You’ve done good stuff. Go now.”
Jeremy Corbyn after his crushing election defeat
In a candid revelation likely to anger many in his party, Mr Watson also said he had backed Mr Smith when the former Pontypridd MP launched a leadership challenge just one year into Mr Corbyn’s tenure.
He said: “I did vote for Owen, but I’ve never said it publicly before.”
“I thought, as soon as the leader loses the confidence of the parliamentary party it’s almost impossible to see how you can form a government.
“I thought Jeremy should have resigned, and he nearly did.”
Tom Watson and Jeremy Corbyn in 2015
Owen Smith challenged Mr Corbyn in 2016
In the event, Mr Corbyn won the resulting contest comfortably, with 61.8 percent of the vote.
Mr Watson also said he knew Mr Corbyn’s leadership was doomed on the day the pair were elected leader and deputy leader respectively.
He said: “We had just won the leader and deputy leader ballots, and we were in this room on our own, and the first thing he said to me was, ‘We’ve got our party back.’
“I remember thinking to myself, I’ve never really lost this party.
Jeremy Corbyn’s key Labour policies
“We’re going to have a bit of fun here, Jeremy.”
Mr Watson’s former seat was won by the Tories in the December 12 election, but Mr Watson was not contesting it after announcing he would not seek reelection the previous month – saying the decision was personal rather than political.
He criticised Labour’s messaging in the campaign, saying: “There were announcements everywhere, but none of them got through because there were so many.
Boris Johnson’s “Get Brexit Done” message was clear, said Mr Watson
“You knew what Boris Johnson’s was: Get Brexit done. What was the Labour strapline?
“Does the Labour party in its current form actually want power?
“The ultimate betrayal of working-class people is not to take power when you can, and if you are a party that believes in power through elections, then that requires pragmatism, prioritisation, compromise and collaboration.”