Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson has faced an increasingly loud chorus of protest from those in the party seeing him as someone pitting himself against Jeremy Corbyn, rather than working with his leader. But what those on Labour’s left have not taken in to account is that Watson enjoys the support of a significant number of MPs who had previously backed Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband. His position was not so precarious. Yet.
Also, Watson was the one who had put effective press regulation, and the restoration of Part 2 of the Leveson Inquiry, front and centre for Labour - and those on the left of the party don’t have a problem with that. But that stance, pitting him against our free and fearless press, for which being properly accountable is anathema, is what may ultimately cause his downfall, after news emerged of Carl Beech’s conviction.
As the BBC has reported, “Carl Beech is a liar, fraudster and paedophile. But for 18 months between 2014 and 2016, he was the star witness in a high-profile investigation into allegations of sexual abuse and murder, involving MPs, generals and senior figures in the intelligence services. Those falsely accused had their properties raided, and one of them - ex-MP Harvey Proctor - lost both his home and his job”. There was more.
“Police referred to him only using the pseudonym ‘Nick’, to protect his identity. His claims that he and others had been the victim of sexual abuse by a ‘VIP ring’ in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and that he had witnessed three child murders by members of the same group … The investigation - known as Operation Midland - would cost some £2.5m. But by the time it was wound up, not one arrest had been made”.
But in the meantime, “Beech was also taken to Parliament to meet Tom Watson, who subsequently stayed in touch with him”. One of those named by Beech as a member of that “VIP ring” was former Home Secretary Lord Brittan. And “When Lord Brittan died in January 2015, Tom Watson wrote an article in the Sunday People newspaper to accompany its revelation that the peer was under investigation by Operation Midland”.
Worse, “Watson wrote: ‘It is not for me to judge whether the claims made against Brittan are true.’ But, the following month, he tweeted: ‘I think I have made my position on Leon Brittan perfectly clear. I believe the people who say he raped them’”. He later told a Commons select committee “I do regret using that emotive language, I shouldn’t have done and I’m sincerely sorry for repeating it, it was unnecessary”.
Now the press is after him big time. The Telegraph splashes his photo on its front page, while the Murdoch Times asserts “Watson has to apologise, say victims of abuse lies”, the Sun declares “Fantasist ‘Nick’ Guilty … WITCH-HUNT … Liar triggered VIP paedo probe … WHITEWASH … but cops & Watson dodge rap”, and the Mail goes totally OTT.
The inmates of the Northcliffe House bunker have gone full Dacre: “Aided by Police, ‘Nick’ destroyed lives with sex abuse lies. Now he’s been convicted of peddling a monstrous fantasy - as Labour’s deputy leader faces calls to quit for his part in a … PERVERSION OF JUSTICE”. Watson was taken in by Beech. That may now prove his undoing.
The Labour left wasn’t where Watson needed to look. That was a problem he could manage. The press was a problem he could not. I’ll just leave that one there.
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