What does Tom Watson know that we don’t, about News International?


by Sunny Hundal    
8:20 am - July 8th 2011

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Following the big announcement yesterday, for me the most striking interview was with Labour MP Tom Watson on Channel 4 News (video below).

Essentially, Tom Watson says that there is far more to come from this cesspit than previously thought, and goes far beyond phone-hacking.

So the question is, what’s next and how do we campaign on it?

Here is a short transcript:

Jon Snow: Tell us, is there something more that you have up your sleeve that you think could be in this dynamic. I mean is there… what is it?

Tom Watson: I think there is more evidence that shows there was more invasive technologies used than just phone hacking. I think we’ll be seeing the use of computer hacking, tracker devices and other forms of covert surveillance. And I think it will cross over to other News International newspapers. And I think there are other rogue private investigators out there we haven’t begun to hear from.

It’s a bit bizarre Jon Snow doesn’t press him on the issue because it means this whole saga could go on for years still and envelop many more big names.

But this also presents a challenge for activists. In taking aim at advertisers during the NotW frenzy this week, we had an opportunity to shape our own narrative and make ourselves heard. It worked.

Making the case and campaigning to block the BSkyB deal won’t be so easy, now the government has essentially made up its mind. If I understand correctly, only Ofcom stands in the way.

So it essentially comes down to what Tom Watson said yesterday. This is a scandal of massive proportions, with corruption, criminal negligence and catastrophically bad judgement (on part of the PM) at its heart. The issue isn’t keeping the story going, but doing so in a way that makes it easier for campaigners to have some impact. I don’t know how that could play out. Your thoughts?

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


He doesn’t appear to be offering anything new; these are existing allegations. A premiership footballer alleged in the last few months that his car was fitted with a tracking device to assist paparrazi. As to “proper” hacking, this seems to be about alleged payments to alleged computer criminals, and its not clear if they were paid to hack, or for info they’d already obtained.

Cameron may have made bad choices but the taint pervades any party that governed during the Murdoch years. It was essential to turn a blind eye if they wanted to remain in power.

I hope Tom Watson has evidence to back up his allegations. We desperately need this cleanout.

Maybe the odd million to labour and Tories people, no, ah well.

4. astateofdenmark

Would Lib Con be equally concerned if other papers, say the Mail or Mirror were up to this sort of thing?

Because they were.

@astateofdenmark – patience dear boy, patience…

@1, guess what? Someone putting forward the same tired defence that was wheeled out two years ago. Some folks learn nothing from events.

Let me give you a hint of what Watson – and others – may mean.

Glenn Mulcaire was one of around a dozen investigators working for the press. That’s right, there are potentially lots more instances of hacking, blagging, and paying off Police. For starters, there’s Jonathan Rees who ran a company called Southern Investigations. He also ran a number of contacts within the Met. Blackmail was featured.

I picked up on this last month. See this post:

http://zelo.tv/lOwIXN

But then, I called this for what it was almost two years ago, while far too many who should have known better were whingeing that it was a rotten lefty plot just to get payback for McBride.

The potential for more papers being sucked in is significant, with the Mail and Mirror high on the list. This one, as the saying goes, will run and run.

Tactically, surely the focus has to be on Cameron and Coulson. If the PM knowlingly or negligently appointed as his media ‘guru’ a man whom he knew (or should have known) had a track record of engaging in unethical and illegal media practices – e.g. paying Jonathan Rees £150,000 a year for information obtained from corrupt police officers – then surely his own position starts to look shaky.

There’s quite an interesting thread on the Guardian site in which Alan Rusbridger talks about the sort of information that was available to Cameron when he employed Coulson:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jul/07/phone-hacking-alan-rusbridger

Just to pick out one comment:

“Well, I think the error of judgement was back in May 2010 when Cameron took Coulson into Number 10. A public inquiry might want to go into what questions he asked at the time. To what extent was he vetted? Why did the vetting not throw any of this up when every journalist knew about it.

Did anyone read these links for instance from 2002? They showed a pattern of corrupt officers, private investigators and bribes among people Coulson hired while he was editor.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2002/sep/21/privacy

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2002/sep/21/privacy2

So there ought to be some searching questions about who looked into what and whether Cameron was remotely sceptical enough about Coulson’s assurances when so much was on the public record.”

Another good article summarizing the sorry saga is here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/mar/11/jonathan-rees-private-investigator-tabloid

http://blogs.reuters.com/mediafile/2011/07/07/is-murdoch-free-to-destroy-tabloids-records/

Reuters seems to think that Murdoch can legally destroy all documents relating to the News of The World when he winds it up on Sunday. Does anyone know if this is the case and can he be prevented from doing this by an injunction. I suspect that this is the real motivation behind the closure.

@Tim Fenton: And? Suggest you try re-reading the comment. I’m not suggesting the allegations don’t matter, but simply that the unspecified allegations Sunny’s asking about aren’t new allegations.

John Terry’s car ‘had tracking device attached’
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-surrey-13734330

The payments to hackers relates to various issues, but notably to the Damien McBride emails affair. Worth noting that those e-mails were hawked around various newspapers, and used by some to accuse Tom Watson of wrong doing (a charge he vigorously denied, including by means of legal action). Hardly surprising if Watson now wants to see the News of the World held to account in connection with the original hacking.

It’s not a defence, but the line “tell me something new” is certainly tired by now. The allegations that the News of the World were commissioning people to break into the voicemail of Milly Dowler, the parents of the Soham victims, and the relatives of dead service members was something new – and lo, it brought down the newspaper.

Ask yourself: why couldn’t an advertising boycott have gotten off the ground on the back of allegations that John Prescott’s mobile was hacked?

The focus on the hacking of celebrity voicemails was a key weakness – as with privacy injunctions, there’s far less public sympathy for an MP or footballer complaining than there is for the parent of a murdered child.

From a tactical point of view, part of the problem with the campaign against News International was always the fact people like Tom Watson and Chris Bryant led it. If it had been spearheaded by less shrill, less party political individuals, we might have gotten here faster. Making it a party political campaign against Coulson made it that bit more difficult to get ordinary people/non-politicos to care.

@9

Ah, if only someone you held in higher esteem had led the campaign, eh?

And I read it the first time. The cloud of indignation and whataboutery shows the target has been hit.

It took this long, and a lot of effort, to get the Police to do a thorough job and go beyond those few slebs. It’s got stuff all to do with Tom Watson and whether or not you like him.

@11: Various responses spring to mind, but *facepalm* is about right.

I’m not saying “…someone [I] held in higher esteem [should have] led the campaign.” I’m saying that the campaign needed someone – anyone – *the public* held in higher esteem. It’s simple: had this attack been led by a generally respected, non-political figure, it would have borne fruit much sooner. Instead, it was spearheaded by three Labour MPs – Bryant, Prescott, Watson – leading to a party political air. An attempt could have been made to turn it into a broader based coalition, away from party politics, but (imv) the issue of Coulson was correctly considered a useful stick to beat Cameron with. As a consequence, most non-politicos I know have viewed it as a pretty trivial, political issue, rather than as the serious abuse it was. That impression is a function of those associated with it.

Things only began to change when the issue was broadened out. Hugh Grant’s intervention was important in that regard. Frankly, I had exactly the same reaction to his foray into investigative journalism as I’ve recorded above in respect of Watson’s comments – “So what? This is old news.” – but it changed matters for a slice of the public. Leslie Ash’s decision to speak out in January was another key moment when the general public started to sit up and recognise this as more important. Crucially, Ash’s comments tapped into standing public sympathy for her condition and past suffering, especially because the hacking was specifically linked to it. But they were still celebrities, and the issue was still distant. The seismic shift was the Milly Dowler, Soham, and service family allegations, because that’s when people were confronted with the reality that this was a major abuse, and had happened to “people like us”.

If you can’t grasp the distinction between your (or mine) view of Tom Watson (or indeed most elected politicians), and that of the average member of the public, you need to get out more. There’s certainly a cloud of indignation here, but it’s coming from someone who won’t engage with basic political reality, apparently in order to defend a particular politician.

(As for “whataboutery”, huh? I have to assume it’s a reference to the McBride affair. I raised that because it’s (a) a discrete and specific example of a situation in which information has apparently been obtained via hacking, and offered for sale to the media, News of the World included; and (b) an incident with which Tom Watson is specifically and publicly aware. I’m not – and didn’t – offer it as a comment on him; indeed, I specifically noted that he denied the wrong doing he was accused off.)

My view of Watson is actually pretty nuanced – he has a good record on some issues – IP issues notably – and an appalling one on others – libel reform being the principal example – but this is coupled with a habit of taking valuable contributions and making them unnecessarily party political. It puts me off, but more importantly it puts the public off.

13. j husdon

In her leaked chat with staff at NOTW, rebeca says there is further bad news to come. We can only speculate, sorry, but the worst thing surely, based on what we know, is that someone asked the original police investigation to keep it limited. Whether paid or not, that request probably came from NOTW for obvious reasons.
As we dont know what else there is, to quote Rumsfeld, limiting the police investigation is all we have. God help us if there is anything more serious.

I’ve heard so many rumours and so much speculation that it’s hard to keep track of it all but I did hear somewhere that crime scenes were allegedly sometimes fabricated to look real for a story. This is the only development that could take it to another level of seriousness.

Unfortunately I think anything that could be imagined could be true with this story…

Also Cameron will go because of this.

It is technolgically possible for virus software and broadband providers to access your computer by remote control. This can be done with or without your permission. Your emails can be read without you even knowing it!!!


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    What does Tom Watson know that we don't, about News International? http://bit.ly/ph2KeW

  2. Will Wilcox

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  3. Jim Grundy

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  4. Purbeck Pashmina

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  5. Gemma Tumelty

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  6. Rosa

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  7. Graeme Robertson

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  8. Saggydaddy

    @libcon: What does Tom Watson know that we don't, about News International? http://t.co/6gv5v2C < Good but will it change? #NewsCorpBoycott

  9. Debra Broughton

    What does Tom Watson know that we don't, about News International? http://bit.ly/ph2KeW

  10. Clive Burgess

    What does Tom Watson know that we don’t, about News International? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/v9kOdBb via @libcon

  11. sunny hundal

    What does @Tom_Watson MP know about News International that we don’t? http://bit.ly/ph2KeW

  12. Saggydaddy

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  13. Grellan Larkin

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  14. John West

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  15. Stew Wilson

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  16. Neil Atkinson

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  17. salardeen

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  18. Graeme Robertson

    [del.icio.us] What does Tom Watson know that we don’t, about News International? | Liberal Conspiracy http://bit.ly/o0om03

  19. Dan Watson

    What does @Tom_Watson MP know about News International that we don’t? http://bit.ly/ph2KeW

  20. Mark Ferguson

    RT @sunny_hundal: What does @tom_watson MP know about News International that we don’t? http://t.co/hPAkdGy << Very good question

  21. Tim Ireland

    What does @Tom_Watson MP know about News International that we don’t? http://bit.ly/ph2KeW

  22. Anna Doble

    What does @Tom_Watson MP know about News International that we don’t? http://bit.ly/ph2KeW

  23. Oliver Conner

    More to come – 'computer hacking, tracker devices and other forms of covert surveillance' that will engulf News Int http://bit.ly/ph2KeW

  24. jojo

    What does @Tom_Watson MP know about News International that we don’t? http://bit.ly/ph2KeW

  25. Tim Ireland

    #NotW: @Tom_Watson warns us, again, that there's even worse to come: http://t.co/xkiOc5G

  26. Hannah M

    #NotW: @Tom_Watson warns us, again, that there's even worse to come: http://t.co/xkiOc5G

  27. oy_vey_baby

    #NotW: @Tom_Watson warns us, again, that there's even worse to come: http://t.co/xkiOc5G

  28. Stuart Middleton

    #NotW: @Tom_Watson warns us, again, that there's even worse to come: http://t.co/xkiOc5G

  29. Kirstin Donaldson

    What does Tom Watson know that we don't, about News International? http://bit.ly/ph2KeW

  30. Vibe Sniper

    What does @Tom_Watson MP know about News International that we don’t? http://bit.ly/ph2KeW

  31. Alex Brown

    What does @Tom_Watson MP know about News International that we don’t? http://bit.ly/ph2KeW

  32. Jim Melly

    What does @Tom_Watson MP know about News International that we don’t? http://bit.ly/ph2KeW

  33. Olly Wiseman

    @misplacedswag http://bit.ly/ro9v7Q "so the question is, what is next and how do we campaign on it?" sigh

  34. jo

    What does Tom Watson know that we don’t, about News International? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/PH1XvfN via @libcon

  35. Jill Hayward

    What does @Tom_Watson MP know about News International that we don’t? http://bit.ly/ph2KeW

  36. craignicol

    #NotW: @Tom_Watson warns us, again, that there's even worse to come: http://t.co/xkiOc5G

  37. leaff gotham

    RT @bloggerheads: #NotW @Tom_Watson warns us, again, that there's even worse to come http://t.co/xkiOc5G #thesun #NewsInternational

  38. MyDavidCameron

    RT @libcon: What does Tom Watson know that we don't, about News International? http://t.co/v4Fz76S

  39. peter fainton

    What does @Tom_Watson MP know about News International that we don’t? http://bit.ly/ph2KeW

  40. The One Click Group

    What does @Tom_Watson MP know about News International that we don’t? http://bit.ly/ph2KeW

  41. Andy Hicks

    RT @marxroadrunner: RT @libcon: What does Tom Watson know that we don't, about News International? http://bit.ly/ph2KeW

  42. bee hive

    What does Tom Watson know that we don’t, about News International? | Liberal Conspiracy: http://t.co/tapcFof #notw #murdochs

  43. Vita Hinchey

    RT @libcon: What does Tom Watson know that we don't, about News International? http://t.co/v4Fz76S

  44. Alveina amjad

    More revelations n how far spread?RT @sunny_hundal Wat does @Tom_Watson MP know about News International that we don’t? http://bit.ly/ph2KeW

  45. fartycat

    RT @libcon: What does Tom Watson know that we don't, about News International? http://t.co/v4Fz76S

  46. Warren Pearce

    What does Tom Watson know that we don't, about News International? http://bit.ly/ph2KeW

  47. Owen Blacker

    What does Tom Watson know that we don't, about News International? http://bit.ly/ph2KeW

  48. Labour Faith Network

    What does Tom Watson know that we don’t, about News International? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/0Kl1kht via @libcon

  49. George Readings

    What does Tom Watson know that we don’t, about News International? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/FRSOpGL via @libcon

  50. Peter Underwood

    RT @libcon: What does Tom Watson know that we don't, about News International? http://t.co/uOBD06A

  51. Liberal Conspiracy

    From this morning: What does @Tom_Watson know that we don’t, about where this scandal goes from here? http://bit.ly/ph2KeW

  52. DemocracyFail

    From this morning: What does @Tom_Watson know that we don’t, about where this scandal goes from here? http://bit.ly/ph2KeW

  53. Jane McCallion

    From this morning: What does @Tom_Watson know that we don’t, about where this scandal goes from here? http://bit.ly/ph2KeW

  54. Jane McCallion

    From this morning: What does @Tom_Watson know that we don’t, about where this scandal goes from here? http://bit.ly/ph2KeW

  55. nobby-Lobby

    Phone hacking tip of the iceberg which incl. computer hacking & tracking devices, all used by other Murdoch papers too http://bit.ly/ph2KeW

  56. Future Left

    What does Tom Watson know that we don’t, about News International? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/Ho4mcNi via @libcon

  57. kevin leonard

    RT @libcon: What does Tom Watson know that we don't, about News International? http://t.co/B7hcfpN

  58. mccnr

    Phone hacking tip of the iceberg which incl. computer hacking & tracking devices, all used by other Murdoch papers too http://bit.ly/ph2KeW

  59. sunny hundal

    @charltonbrooker there is worse coming on this #NotW stuff.. and Tom Watson said so last night on C4 news http://t.co/2ZXjhep

  60. The Small Places

    @charltonbrooker there is worse coming on this #NotW stuff.. and Tom Watson said so last night on C4 news http://t.co/2ZXjhep

  61. Hano

    #notw – you ain't seen *nothing* yet: @tomwatson reckons there's a lot worse to come http://t.co/uAvbku2 #thisisgoingtobringdownthegovenment

  62. Chica Lolita

    RT @PhilDyson: #notw – you ain't seen *nothing* yet: @tomwatson reckons there's a lot worse to come http://bit.ly/r8qurF

  63. Gavin Duff

    From this morning: What does @Tom_Watson know that we don’t, about where this scandal goes from here? http://bit.ly/ph2KeW

  64. Christine Burns

    Liberal Conspiracy: What does Tom Watson [MP] know that we don't, about News International http://bit.ly/ro9v7Q

  65. David Davies

    What does Tom Watson know that we don’t, about News International? ~ http://t.co/BkJNSJo | liberal conspiracy

  66. BHP Animal Watch

    Sums it up really http://bit.ly/qqsh3L Rupert Murdoch always did look like a particularly malignant virus. David d http://twitpic.com/5n27nl

  67. BHP Animal Watch

    Sums it up http://t.co/WBe9TUu RupertMurdoch always looked like a particularly malignant virus. David does not look well http://t.co/yCgmq2T

  68. BHP Animal Watch

    Sums it up http://bit.ly/qqsh3L Rupert Murdoch always looked like a particularly malignant virus. David does not l http://twitpic.com/5n2b53

  69. Dick Mandrake

    "…there is more evidence that shows there was more invasive technologies used than just phone hacking." – Tom Watson http://t.co/Uyimpow

  70. Ma

    "…there is more evidence that shows there was more invasive technologies used than just phone hacking." – Tom Watson http://t.co/Uyimpow

  71. Paul Wood

    "…there is more evidence that shows there was more invasive technologies used than just phone hacking." – Tom Watson http://t.co/Uyimpow

  72. Kim Blake

    What does Tom Watson know that we don’t, about News International? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/lU0MtLV via @libcon

  73. Anonymous Watcher

    What does Tom Watson know that we don’t, about News International? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/lU0MtLV via @libcon

  74. VirtualResistance

    What does Tom Watson know that we don’t, about News International? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/lU0MtLV via @libcon

  75. manishta sunnia

    What does Tom Watson know that we don’t, about News International? http://t.co/q3ro5RK #murdoch #bskyb #NotW

  76. John Sargent

    What does Tom Watson know that we don’t, about News International? http://t.co/q3ro5RK #murdoch #bskyb #NotW

  77. sunny hundal

    We already knew other News Int'l titles were going to be engulfed… @tom_watson said so last week http://bit.ly/ph2KeW

  78. .

    We already knew other News Int'l titles were going to be engulfed… @tom_watson said so last week http://bit.ly/ph2KeW

  79. Ged Robinson

    We already knew other News Int'l titles were going to be engulfed… @tom_watson said so last week http://bit.ly/ph2KeW

  80. Mango Saul

    We already knew other News Int'l titles were going to be engulfed… @tom_watson said so last week http://bit.ly/ph2KeW

  81. Vic Langer

    We already knew other News Int'l titles were going to be engulfed… @tom_watson said so last week http://bit.ly/ph2KeW

  82. wolfst?r

    We already knew other News Int'l titles were going to be engulfed… @tom_watson said so last week http://bit.ly/ph2KeW





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