Tom Watson (politician)

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For other people named Thomas Watson, see Thomas Watson (disambiguation).
Tom Watson,
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
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 48)
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

Thomas Anthony "Tom" 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.[citation needed]

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 soldiers shot for cowardice in World War I received posthumous 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.[citation needed]

After returning to Government during Gordon Brown's premiership,[16] 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 examined the case for freer access to Government data, culminating in a report and a competition, ShowUsABetterWay,[17] which gave a £20,000 prize for the best idea for a website that used Government data in innovative ways.[18] He established policies requiring Government to consider open source software as well as proprietary solutions during IT procurements.[19] Before leaving office, Watson created a new post for a Director of Digital Engagement within the Cabinet Office.[citation needed]

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.[20] 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 Blair to resign:[21]

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 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?"[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.[22] 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.[22]

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.[23]

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."[24]

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.[25] 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.[26]

In August 2010, Watson was guest editor of the Labour Uncut website.[27] In October 2011, he 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.[28] 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.[29]

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.[30] In December 2012, the Metropolitan Police stated that, after Watson had passed information to them, they had established Operation Fairbank to investigate the allegations.[31] 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.[32]

Dial M for Murdoch[edit]

In July 2011 it was announced that Watson and his co-author Martin Hickman, a journalist from The Independent, were writing a book dealing with the relationship between newspapers belonging to Rupert Murdoch's News International and senior British politicians and police officers.[33] Watson wrote his book at the same time as The Guardian journalist Nick Davies was writing his, which was subsequently released as Hack Attack: How the Truth Caught Up with Rupert Murdoch. Watson and Davies subsequently met and discussed their respective projects.[33] The publication date and title of Watson's 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.[34] 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."[35]

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.[36] His current partner, Stephanie Peacock,[2] was selected at PPC for the neighbouring constituency of Halesowen and Rowley Regis in 2013.[3]



  1. ^ a b "House of Commons – The Register of Members' Financial Interests – Part 2: Part 2". Retrieved 23 November 2011. 
  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. 5 June 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. 4 July 2013. Retrieved 26 October 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 10 January 2009. 
  9. ^ Bamber, David (14 October 2001). "Gary Glitter's comeback plan sparks protest". London: Retrieved 10 February 2012. 
  10. ^ Journal And Information Office, House of Lords. "Publications and Records". Retrieved 13 March 2013. 
  11. ^ "Labour's politics of gutter". Socialist Worker. 10 July 2004. Retrieved 23 November 2011. 
  12. ^ "Blogger: Aanmelden". Retrieved 23 November 2011. 
  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, UK). Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  15. ^ S. Walker, Forgotten Soldiers Gill and MacMillan (2007); ISBN 978-0-7171-4182-1.
  16. ^ "In full: Gordon Brown's reshuffle". BBC News. 24 January 2008. Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  17. ^ "". Retrieved 13 March 2013. 
  18. ^ Cross, Michael (10 July 2008). "Take your chance to free public data". The Guardian (London, UK). Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  19. ^ "UK government backs open source". BBC News. 25 February 2009. Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  20. ^ Minister joins Blair exit demands, BBC News Online, 5 September 2006; retrieved 6 September 2006
  21. ^ Blair under pressure to name day, BBC News Online, 6 September 2006; retrieved 6 September 2006.
  22. ^ 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 18 December 2009. 
  23. ^ Owens, Craig (30 March 2010). "Tom Watson MP: ‘Shame On’ Authors Of Digital Economy Bill". [dead link]
  24. ^ Linkins, Jason (21 January 2011) British MP Tom Watson To Glenn Beck: 'You Are A Bigot', Huffington Post
  25. ^ Walker, Jonathon (8 July 2011). "The Tom Watson Story: The man who took on Rupert Murdoch and won". Birmingham Post. Retrieved 8 July 2011. 
  26. ^ "Tom Watson labels James Murdoch 'mafia boss'". BBC News. 10 November 2011. Retrieved 10 November 2011. 
  27. ^ "The Week Uncut " Labour Uncut". Labour Uncut. 22 August 2010. Retrieved 24 August 2010. 
  28. ^ "Watson Hits Delete Button – Guy Fawkes' blog". 27 November 2011. Retrieved 10 February 2012. 
  29. ^ "Denied Day in Court – Guy Fawkes' blog". 30 November 2011. Retrieved 10 February 2012. 
  30. ^ 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. 
  31. ^ "Jimmy Savile abuse: Number of alleged victims reaches 450". BBC News. 12 December 2012. Retrieved 12 December 2012. 
  32. ^ "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. 
  33. ^ a b Roy Greenslade (26 July 2011). "Hack Attack review – Nick Davies's gripping account of the hacking affair". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 September 2014. 
  34. ^ Hall, Richard (17 April 2012). "New book 'exposes links between Murdoch, politicians and police'". The Independent (Independent Print Ltd). Retrieved 17 April 2012. 
  35. ^ McNally, Paul (16 April 2012). "Tom Watson phone hacking book out this week". Retrieved 17 April 2012. 
  36. ^ Widdop, Kevin (18 April 2012). "Labour MP spearheading campaign phone hacking blames pressure of scandal for collapse of his marriage". Daily Mail. Retrieved 10 January 2013. 

External links[edit]

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