In defence of Tom Watson, MP

In defence of Tom Watson, MP


norman lebrecht

October 11, 2015

Now the ratpack is upon him for smearing the dying and the dead, let these things be remembered:

1 Tom Watson MP was the only person in authority who listened to victims of child abuse at a time when no newspaper could be bothered to give them time of day.

2 Tom Watson MP cared for the victims and made the connection between them and an initially sceptical police force.

3 His involvement resulted in increased police activity which led, in turn, to numerous successful prosecutions.

4 Tom Watson was also a leader of the inquiry into phone-hacking and other abuses by the press, which is why they are hounding him now.

5 Tom Watson MP went way over the top in smearing the late Leon Brittan and others as paedophiles on the basis of unchecked testimony. He needs to apologise for the suffering he caused to the innocent and their families.

6 But – the big but – Tom Watson MP has made it harder for paedophiles to prey on British schoolchildren and his actions have forced many academies, including music colleges, to improve child protection.

For this, he deserves a public vote of thanks.


Declaration of interest: I have met Tom Watson only once, when being cross-examined by him before the House of Commons culture committee. He, together with Louise Mensch on the Tory side, were keenly interested in tackling maladministration and injustice wherever it occurred, something that cannot be said for many politicians.


  • Ian Pace says:

    Just on this point:

    ‘Tom Watson MP went way over the top in smearing the late Leon Brittan and others as paedophiles on the basis of unchecked testimony. He needs to apologise for the suffering he caused to the innocent and their families.’

    Watson was approached by a woman claiming to have been raped by Brittan. Only the police could check that testimony, and he had reason to believe that they were not investigating it properly because of the prominence of the alleged perpetrator (and there’s certainly plenty of precedent for that), so he wrote to the DPP to ask that she get the police to look at this case more carefully. It now appears they decided there wasn’t a case to answer, but Tom could not have known that for sure at the time – and he did not name Brittan at the time (he didn’t name him until after his death). He was also approached by someone claiming to have been raped by Brittan when a boy. Investigations into this and other allegations, including things relating to Elm Guest House, are ongoing.

    I’ve had various exchanges with Tom, and know his absolute commitment to proper investigation of all cases of child abuse, and he has been very supportive on the issue of abuse in musical education (he was going to ask a question in Parliament about the extradition of Chris Ling, which had appeared to be held up, but then the news came through about Ling shooting himself).

    • SVM says:

      Exactly; I disagree with much of Watson’s politics, but Pace is right to point out that it is not for those in whom allegations are first confided to determine whether there is a case to answer; it is a matter for the police and judicial due process. Watson was right to be concerned about failures on the part of the police and the judiciary to take allegations seriously; the fact that Brittan may have been found innocent *after* thorough investigation does not diminish the legitimacy of the due process that Watson lobbied the police to follow. In fact, it suggests that the due process is robust, in that there is no foregone conclusion at the stage of investigation (it would be a matter of concern if every single investigation in every single case consistently found the suspect guilty).

    • jeannette marshall says:

      How enlightened we are in 2017 eh!! MI5 covered up, Thatcher covered up and then May covered up for the Phedophile Ministers. May 2:02 in her speech stated that Dickens didn’t name any senior Ministers….and we find that the dossiers MP Geoffrey Dickens handed to LEON BRITTEN magically disappeared. NOW we learn that Tom Watson was absolutely correct to shout loudly and smear TORY LEON BRITTEN as one of the TORY phedophile ring! What I want to know is, did Dickens know about Leon Britten when he handed the file to him?

      These enquiries are superficial, void of integrity. This one was held simply so that e.g. BRITTEN could collect the evidence against him and his chums from MI5. The Home Office and senior Government Ministers could then have one great big bonfire! Seriously, is anybody so naive as to believe that incriminating evidence wasn’t copied before handing over. The NASTY PARTY continues to be so.

  • Gary Carpenter says:

    I have a friend who worked as a journalist at the Evening Standard. I remember his saying back in the 1980s that a story about Brittan and another prominent politician’s activities had been spiked at the last minute. Both Leon Brittan QC and the other (Labour – still living) used very powerful (super?) injunctions to silence the editor.

  • Ellingtonia says:

    Just one question to NL, how many current or former Labour politicians has Tom Watson (or the nonce finder general as described by Guido Fawkes) named since he started his little “exposure programme”?

  • Minutewaltz says:

    The treatment meted out to Leon Brittain was truly shocking. I hope Watson has that on his conscience for the rest of his days – but I don’t suppose he will as in his book anyone who is a Tory deserves smears, slander and libel and who cares if they are innocent.

  • Una says:

    There is a vicious witch hunt going on that is destroying even more lives. Leon Brittan should not have even been mentioned, or anyone for that matter being investigated unless there would be enough evidence to find them guilty. Then! But the way it has gone is a disgrace and all the character assassinations that goes with investigating. There are genuine victims I know, but then there are even more on the financial make as well. In the end, I don’t believe there are any winners. People who are named and shamed and are innocent never recover from the experience. And as for the Tories, I’m not a Tory, and neither could I be bothered to read a book about or by Watson. But if Watson has smeared people for their political beliefs just because doesn’t like them or because all Tories should be so, then is on a par with smearing people for their religious beliefs – just plain bigotry and shameful. We are all in the end flawed human beings.

  • Una says:

    Okay Ian, I respect what you say but it’s not great when people have died and they can’t speak up for themselves or challenge anything. I find that scenario really awful to speak of the dead in that way when they had all the years when they were alive.

  • Tony says:

    Much of the criticism of Tom Watson stems from last week’s BBC programme about reporting of sexual abuse allegations among celebrities and politicians. For me, the BBC has minimal credibility in its “High Horse” posturing of last week’s programme, given the way as an institution it not only protected but enabled in-house abusers – Jimmy Savile and Stuart Hall – for decades.

    Whatever your politics, to acknowledge Tom Watson’s best intentions and perseverance in the area of tackling child abuse within Establishment institutions is much more than fair. The BBC’s attitude to this topic has been dire historically, and last week’s programme served to undermine the work of the police and of prosecutors. When will the BBC act more responsibly and at least keep quiet rather than draw more attention to its hypocrisy?

  • Miles Golding says:

    Brittan never satisfactorily explained the Dickens dossier.
    Many questions remain unanswered. One has to wonder why.

    I admire Tom Watson’s dedicated perseverance. Thanks to Ian Pace for setting the record straight about his “smear” of Brittan.

    • David King says:

      “Smear” or smear? It seems Leon Brittan continues to be smeared in some quarters as a result of this faulty investigation. It’s not up to Watson (or the police for that matter) to act as judge and jury; doing so under the flimsiest of circumstances is a disgrace and undermines the work done investigating real child abusers.

      Excusing Watson as he’s thought to have meant well at the time is also surprising.

    • Ellingtonia says:

      Watson is nothing but an opportunist “appartchik” who would shop his own mother if it led to advancement in what is now comically called the Labour party.
      He was originally one of the “prime mentalists” thugs along with Damian McBride who did everything possible to smear and undermine not only opposition politicians but those in his own party who had the temerity to stand up to that useless Scotsman, Gordon Brown.
      So please save us the sanctimony about Watson doing things for the “right reasons!”

  • Ian Pace says:

    I would like to draw people’s attention to this post by Tim Tate, in no sense like the wholly disreputable Exaro news organisation. Tate has done pioneering investigative journalism on sexual abuse for 30 years, and knowing the nature of his sources, think this should be taken very seriously.

    • Ellingtonia says:

      To take just one quote from the article “I repeat that I have no way of independently corroborating what the detective told me”…………so you think we should take this bit of scurrilous wring seriously. I suspect that you have an “agenda” Mr Pace!

      • pooroperaman says:

        ‘I suspect that you have an “agenda” Mr Pace!’

        They all do: Pace, Watson, Roscoe.

        The only person we should be listening to about this whole sorry business is Paul Gambaccini. He’s nailed it: this is an attack on celebrity and success by wannabes and failures. The politics of envy in a new form, and just as disgusting.