A motion to oust Labour deputy leader Tom Watson from his role has been withdrawn after receiving a huge backlash.
Watson this morning criticised the move as a “secretarian attack” prior to it being withdrawn.
The deputy leader of the opposition found out late on Friday that founder of Labour grassroots group Momentum, John Lansman, had tabled a motion to have him removed, via a text message.
Watson has been at odds with leader Jeremy Corbyn over the party’s stance on Brexit.
The motion to oust him and remove his post altogether was made on Friday at a meeting of the party’s National Executive Committee but failed to get the two-thirds majority required.
It is a move that was labelled by former Prime Minister Tony Blair as “undemocratic and politically dangerous”.
A second attempt to remove him was expected to be made today at the party’s annual conference in Brighton.
“It’s a straight sectarian attack on a broad church party,” Watson told the BBC.
“It’s moving us into a different kind of institution where pluralism isn’t tolerated. Where factional observance has to be adhered to completely.
“And it completely goes against the sort of traditions that the Labour Party has had for 100 years.”
He also said that Lansman “and his faction” were so angry about his position on Brexit they would “rather abolish me than have a debate about it”.
Watson also asked those looking to have him removed to show they were serious about changing the political economy rather than having “a sort of sleight-of-hand constitutional change to do a drive-by shooting of someone you disagree with”.
He admitted he “didn’t know” Corbyn had been involved in the plot, but said the leader had the power to stop it, which is reportedly what has happened.
He also defended his role and said party members could trigger an election if they wanted to remove him.
“These kinds of things happen in Venezuela, they shouldn’t be happening in the United Kingdom,” he said.
Labour MP Wes Streeting wrote on Twitter: “Motion withdrawn, now that consequences of it going ahead have been made clear by MPs and unions. Labour conference opens with headlines about division and civil war.
“Excellent health, environment and workplace rights announcements drowned out. Shameful from Lansman and Momentum.”
Corbyn has instead proposed a review of the deputy leader and other senior positions rather than a vote.
A Labour Party source said: “Jeremy Corbyn proposed that the motion not go to a vote and instead that there be a review of the position of deputy leader and other positions in support of the leader.
“This will consider how democratic accountability can be strengthened to give members a greater say, expanding the number of elected positions, and how diverse representation can be further improved. The NEC agreed to his proposal.”
Watson had called on Labour to fully back Remain, while Corbyn has preferred to hold a second referendum with a credible Leave option – and is yet to say which side he would back.
A Momentum source told the BBC: “We just can’t afford to go into an election with a deputy leader set on wrecking Labour’s chances.
“Labour members overwhelmingly want a deputy leadership election, but our outdated rulebook won’t let it happen.”
Shadow women and equalities secretary, Dawn Butler, said the motion had “come out of the blue” but admitted “I have my frustrations with Tom too”, when asked if he was doing his job well.
She added: “I haven’t seen him at a shadow cabinet meeting for a while.”
Former Prime Minister and Labour leader Tony Blair hit out at the move though, labelling it as “undemocratic, damaging and politically dangerous”.
Blair said: “A decision to abolish the post of Deputy Leader would be undemocratic, damaging and politically dangerous. To suggest it at this time shows a quite extraordinary level of destructive sectarianism.
“The Labour Party has always contained different views within it and the Deputy Leader’s position has been one way of accommodating such views.
“Getting rid of it would be a signal that such pluralism of views was coming to an end despite being cherished throughout Labour’s history.”