Tom Watson (politician)

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Tom Watson,
MP
Large man in suit, glasses and short dark hair giving a presentation in front of overhead projection screen
Tom Watson at 5th COMMUNIA Workshop
Deputy Chair of the Labour Party
In office
7 October 2011 – 4 July 2013
Leader Ed Miliband
Chair Harriet Harman
Preceded by Stephen Timms
Succeeded by Jon Ashworth
Parliamentary Secretary for
the Cabinet Office
In office
25 January 2008 – 5 June 2009
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by Gillian Merron
Succeeded by Shriti Vadera
Member of Parliament
for West Bromwich East
Incumbent
Assumed office
7 June 2001
Preceded by Peter Snape
Majority 6,696 (17.6%)
Personal details
Born Thomas Anthony Watson
(1967-01-08) 8 January 1967 (age 47)
Nationality British
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Siobhan Watson[1] (????-2012) separated - 2xchildren[2]
Domestic partner Stephanie Peacock[2][3]
Alma mater University of Hull
Website www.tom-watson.co.uk

Thomas Anthony Watson (born 8 January 1967) is a British Labour Party politician, who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for West Bromwich East since 2001. Watson was a Parliamentary Secretary for the Cabinet Office from 2008 to 2009.[4]

In 2011, Ed Miliband appointed Watson as the first ever Deputy Chair of the Labour Party and the Labour Party's Campaign Co-ordinator.[5] He resigned from the Campaign position on 4 July 2013, in light of the developing 2013 Labour Party Falkirk candidate selection row.[6]

Education and early career[edit]

Tom Watson was educated at King Charles I School, Kidderminster, and the University of Hull, where he was active in the Hull University Labour Club and elected President of the Students' Union in 1992. He was Chair of the National Organisation of Labour Students from 1992–93. He then worked as a marketing officer and advertising account executive. In 1993, he began to work for the Labour Party as National Development Officer for Youth. He then worked on the party's 1997 general election campaign before becoming the National Political Officer of the AEEU trade union.

MP in Government[edit]

He was elected MP for West Bromwich East in 2001. In 2002 Watson was a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee when it ran an inquiry into UK drug policy. Watson voted to support the Committee's final recommendation that called upon the UK Government to "initiate a discussion within the Commission on Narcotic Drugs of alternative ways — including the possibility of legalisation and regulation — to tackle the global drugs dilemma".[7] In 2003, he included a weblog on his website. In 2004, he won the New Statesman New Media Award in the category of elected representative for using his weblog to further the democratic process. He is also an active user of Twitter.[8]

Parliamentary activities[edit]

In his first year in Parliament, Watson launched a campaign to ban album sales of convicted sex offender Gary Glitter.[9]

In 2002, Watson moved a Ten Minute Rule Bill to change organ donation laws. The Organ Donation (Presumed Consent and Safeguards) Bill was part of a joint campaign with the British Medical Association to increase the supply of organ donors in the UK.[10]

Tom Watson was campaign organiser for the Labour Party in the Birmingham Hodge Hill by-election in July 2004, in which he retained the seat in difficult political times for the party, in the wake of the Iraq War. This campaign drew criticism for its 'dirty' tactics, particularly a Labour leaflet proclaiming "Labour is on your side — the Lib Dems are on the side of failed asylum seekers."[11][12]

Watson was appointed as an Assistant Government Whip on 9 September 2004 and was nominated as a "Top Toadie" by The Guardian Diary on 6 January 2005.[13] He was promoted on 5 May 2006 to Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Defence.

During his time at the MoD, Watson was instrumental in ensuring that the soldiers shot for cowardice in World War I received pardons.[14] Watson was said to have acted having met the relatives of Private Harry Farr, who was executed during World War I despite strong evidence that he was suffering shellshock.[15] The mass pardon of 306 British Empire soldiers executed for certain offences during World War I was enacted in section 359 of the Armed Forces Act 2006, which came into effect on royal assent on 8 November 2006. This number included three from New Zealand, 23 from Canada, two from the West Indies, two from Ghana and one each from Sierra Leone, Egypt and Nigeria.[16]

After returning to Government during Gordon Brown's premiership,[17] Watson took a particular interest in digital affairs, and in making non-personal Government data more available to the public. During his time at the Cabinet Office, the Power of Information Taskforce][18] examined the case for freer access to Government data, culminating in a report and a competition, ShowUsABetterWay,[19] which gave a £20,000 prize for the best idea for a website that used Government data in innovative ways.[20] He also established policies requiring Government to consider open source software as well as proprietary solutions during IT procurements.[21] Before leaving office, Watson created a new post for a Director of Digital Engagement within the Cabinet Office.[22]

Parliamentary events[edit]

On 5 September 2006, it was reported that Watson had signed a letter to Tony Blair urging the Prime Minister's resignation to end the uncertainty over his succession.[23] The Government Chief Whip, Jacqui Smith, told Watson that evening that he must either withdraw his signature to the letter, or resign his post. On 6 September 2006, he resigned his ministerial position and released a further statement calling on Tony Blair to resign:[24]

It is with the greatest sadness that I have to say that I no longer believe that your remaining in office is in the interest of either the party or the country ... How and why this situation has arisen no longer matters. I share the view of the overwhelming majority of the party and the country that the only way the party and the government can renew itself in office is urgently to renew its leadership.

Tony Blair was quoted by the BBC as saying that the statement and letter from Watson was "disloyal, discourteous and wrong" and that he would be seeing Watson later in the day. He said that he had planned to dismiss Watson from Government for having signed the letter urging him to resign. Within days of the incident suggestions appeared that Watson had been to Chancellor Gordon Brown's residence in Scotland only the day before the memo was sent to Tony Blair. Watson claimed he was dropping off a present for Brown's new baby Fraser and that neither the issue of the note, nor "any politics" were discussed.[citation needed]

As Watson recounted on his weblog, his reception at the Labour Party Conference a few weeks after his resignation got a mixed reaction from Labour Party colleagues. Some sought him out to congratulate him, whilst others sought him out to be sarcastic or to be abusive. One such encounter was with Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, who asked Watson, whilst he was waiting to be interviewed by Channel 4 News, if he was "going to resign again?"

Watson's actions, by his own admission on his weblog and elsewhere, angered many of his colleagues within the Labour Party, but also pleased many. He returned to government following Brown's appointment as Prime Minister in June 2007, in apparent contravention of a promise allegedly made in 2006 never to do so.[citation needed]

Expenses scandal[edit]

On 10 May 2009 it was revealed that since being re-elected as MP in 2005, Watson claimed the maximum £4,800 allowance for food in a single year. From 2005-2009, Watson and Iain Wright claimed over £100,000 on the apartment they share.[25] Watson responded that a "pizza wheel" that appeared on a Marks & Spencer receipt he submitted was given as a free gift after he spent £150 at the store. He added:

All claims were made under the rules set out by the House of Commons authorities. I fully understand why the public expects the system to be reformed. I voted for this last week and only hope that reforms can go even further as quickly as possible.[25]

Opposition to the Digital Economy Act[edit]

Tom Watson led a number of MPs in speaking out firmly against the Digital Economy Act 2010, as the bill was being passed through Parliament in April 2010 during the 'wash-up' period before the election. He took part in a protest against the bill outside Parliament on 24 March 2010.[26]

Glenn Beck[edit]

Watson has been critical of conservative former Fox News host Glenn Beck, saying that Beck's "type of journalism is dangerous and can have wide-ranging negative effects on society. The kind of material broadcast by Glenn Beck is not unique; a number of other 'shock jocks' operate in the States. However, none has displayed intolerance on such a frequent and irresponsible scale as Glenn Beck. It is vital that that kind of 'news' is not made or broadcast in the UK. However, the proposed acquisition of BSkyB by News Corp means that there is an increased threat of its becoming a reality."[27]

In Opposition[edit]

Watson played a significant role in the News International phone hacking scandal by helping to bring the series of events at the News of the World into the open.[28] He claims that his wife left him permanently because of this.[29]

As a member of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, he questioned Rupert and James Murdoch, along with former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks, in a Committee session on 19 July 2011. After the subsequent re-questioning of James Murdoch on 10 November 2011, Tom Watson received widespread coverage for his likening of Murdoch to a mafia boss.[30]

In August 2010, Watson was guest editor of the Labour Uncut website.[31]

In October 2011, Watson was promoted to become Deputy Chair of the Labour Party, to work with Jon Trickett and Michael Dugher in the Shadow Cabinet Office, running Labour's elections and campaigns. He resigned from this position in July 2013, in light of the 2013 Labour Party Falkirk candidate selection row.[6]

Leveson Inquiry leak[edit]

On 27 November 2011, Watson's website published Alastair Campbell's evidence that was due to be presented to the Leveson Inquiry into media ethics during the following week. After this act was highlighted on the Guido Fawkes blog, together with references to the source material, the page was withdrawn.[32] Paul Staines, editor of Guido Fawkes, was summonsed, on the same day that this appeared, to appear in front of the enquiry. It appeared that Watson was not going to be summonsed to appear as the Leveson Enquiry had deemed that he copied it from the Guido Fawkes blog, a version that had been redacted. No details were to hand to verify the dates and times of his publication, nor how it appeared to be unredacted. The summons against Staines was withdrawn on 30 November 2011, the day before he was due to give evidence.[33]

Allegations of high-level UK paedophile network[edit]

On 24 October 2012, Watson suggested in the House of Commons that a paedophile network may have existed in the past at a high level, protected by connections to Parliament and involving a close aide to a former Prime Minister; neither the aide nor the former Prime Minister were named. He called on the Metropolitan Police to reopen a closed criminal inquiry into previous allegations.[34] In December 2012, the Metropolitan Police stated that, after Watson had passed information to them, they had established Operation Fairbank to investigate the allegations.[35] It was reported by The Independent that police had interviewed a number of adults who claimed that, as children, they had been sexually assaulted by senior MPs.[36]

Dial M for Murdoch[edit]

On 16 April 2012, the publisher Allen Lane released details of a book Watson had co-authored with Martin Hickman, a journalist from The Independent which deals with the relationship between newspapers belonging to Rupert Murdoch's News International and senior British politicians and police officers. The publication date and title of the book, Dial M for Murdoch: News Corporation and the Corruption of Britain, were released just three days before it was due to go on sale amid fears News International would try to prevent the launch.[37] On the day details of the book were revealed, Watson indicated on his blog his belief that the book would be controversial: "Very excited to say we've finally finished the book. It's out this Thursday. I have a hunch it will be one of the most attacked books this year."[38]

Personal life[edit]

Watson is married to Siobhan,[1] and the couple have two children.[2] The couple are presently separated, which Watson claims is due to his work on the News International phone hacking scandal.[29] His current partner, 26 year old Stephanie Peacock,[2] was selected at PPC for the neighbouring constituency of Halesowen and Rowley Regis in 2013.[3]

Bibliography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "House of Commons - The Register of Members' Financial Interests - Part 2: Part 2". Publications.parliament.uk. Retrieved 2011-11-23. 
  2. ^ a b c d "MP Tom Watson finds new love after marriage comes to an end". Birmingham Mail. 26 August 2012. Retrieved 21 July 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Simon Walters and Glen Owen (21 July 2013). "Mother of union boss love child fixes MPs for Labour". Daily Mail. Retrieved 21 July 2013. 
  4. ^ "Resignation". Tom Watson MP. June 5, 2009. 
  5. ^ "Unveiling Labour's new guard". BBC News. 7 October 2011. Retrieved 23 November 2011. 
  6. ^ a b ""Tom Watson quits as Labour election campaign chief"". BBC News. July 4, 2013. Retrieved October 26, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Select Committee on Home Affairs Third Report". UK Parliament. 22 May 2002. Retrieved 4 November 2012. 
  8. ^ Watson, Tom. "Tom Watson's Twitter stream". Tom Watson. Retrieved 2009-01-10. 
  9. ^ Bamber, David (2001-10-14). "Gary Glitter's comeback plan sparks protest". London: Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-02-10. 
  10. ^ Journal And Information Office, House of Lords. "Publications and Records". Publications.parliament.uk. Retrieved 2013-03-13. 
  11. ^ "Labour's politics of gutter". Socialist Worker. 2004-07-10. Retrieved 2011-11-23. 
  12. ^ "Blogger: Aanmelden". Newerlabour.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2011-11-23. 
  13. ^ Marina Hyde's diary, The Guardian, 6 January 2005; retrieved 6 September 2006
  14. ^ McDonald, Henry (28 October 2007). "War shame ended by plea of a daughter". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  15. ^ S.Walker Forgotten Soldiers Gill and MacMillan 2007 ISBN 978-0-7171-4182-1
  16. ^ [1][dead link]
  17. ^ "In full: Gordon Brown's reshuffle". BBC News. 24 January 2008. Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  18. ^ [2][dead link]
  19. ^ "showusabetterway.co.uk". showusabetterway.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-03-13. 
  20. ^ Cross, Michael (10 July 2008). "Take your chance to free public data". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  21. ^ "UK government backs open source". BBC News. 25 February 2009. Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  22. ^ "[ARCHIVED CONTENT] Cabinet Office names Director of Digital Engagement". Cabinetoffice.gov.uk. Retrieved 2011-11-23. [dead link]
  23. ^ Minister joins Blair exit demands, BBC News Online, 5 September 2006; retrieved 6 September 2006
  24. ^ Blair under pressure to name day, BBC News Online, 6 September 2006; retrieved 6 September 2006
  25. ^ a b Gordon Rayner and Rosa Prince (10 May 2009). "Iain Wright and Tom Watson lavish £100,000 on shared central London flat on MPs' expenses". Telegraph. Retrieved 2009-12-18. 
  26. ^ Owens, Craig (2010-03-30). "Tom Watson MP: ‘Shame On’ Authors Of Digital Economy Bill". [dead link]
  27. ^ Linkins, Jason (2011-01-21) British MP Tom Watson To Glenn Beck: 'You Are A Bigot', Huffington Post
  28. ^ Walker, Jonathon (2011-07-08). "The Tom Watson Story: The man who took on Rupert Murdoch and won". Birmingham Post. Retrieved 8 July 2011. 
  29. ^ a b Widdop, Kevin (2012-04-18). "Labour MP spearheading campaign phone hacking blames pressure of scandal for collapse of his marriage". Daily Mail. Retrieved 10 January 2013. 
  30. ^ "Tom Watson labels James Murdoch 'mafia boss'". BBC News. 10 November 2011. Retrieved 2011-11-10. 
  31. ^ "The Week Uncut «  Labour Uncut". Labour Uncut. 2010-08-22. Retrieved 24 August 2010. 
  32. ^ "Watson Hits Delete Button - Guy Fawkes' blog". Order-order.com. 2011-11-27. Retrieved 2012-02-10. 
  33. ^ "Denied Day in Court - Guy Fawkes' blog". Order-order.com. 2011-11-30. Retrieved 2012-02-10. 
  34. ^ Hickman, Martin (25 October 2012). "Was there a paedophile ring in No 10? MP Tom Watson demands probe". The Independent (London). Retrieved 12 December 2012. 
  35. ^ "Jimmy Savile abuse: Number of alleged victims reaches 450". BBC News. 12 December 2012. Retrieved 12 December 2012. 
  36. ^ "Scotland Yard investigating allegations senior politicians abused children in the 1980s and used 'connections' to escape justice". The Independent. 13 December 2012. Retrieved 13 December 2012. 
  37. ^ Hall, Richard (17 April 2012). "New book 'exposes links between Murdoch, politicians and police'". The Independent (Independent Print Ltd). Retrieved 17 April 2012. 
  38. ^ McNally, Paul (16 April 2012). "Tom Watson phone hacking book out this week". Journalism.co.uk. Retrieved 17 April 2012. 

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Peter Snape
Member of Parliament for West Bromwich East
2001–present
Incumbent
Political offices
Preceded by
Gillian Merron
Parliamentary Secretary for the Cabinet Office
2008–2009
Succeeded by
Shriti Vadera
Party political offices
Preceded by
Stephen Timms
Deputy Chair of the Labour Party
2011–2013
Succeeded by
Jon Ashworth