Recent Articles

Why won’t ministers follow through with promises of cutting their cars?

by Tom Watson MP     August 10, 2010 at 9:10 am

The Coalition Government pledged to cut waste by axing chauffeur driven ministerial cars. Based on information supplied to me through parliamentary questions, I’ve estimated that this could deliver savings to the taxpayer of at least £6.2 million per annum.

An important job of any opposition politician is to hold the executive to account.

That’s why nearly 80 days into David and Nick’s “new politics”; I am providing a progress report on their efforts to reduce the ministerial car fleet.
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Labour can’t rush its leadership election; why not have a TV debate?

by Tom Watson MP     May 12, 2010 at 10:11 pm

There’s so much I want to shout out about the last 13 years. There are so many great achievements I want us to organise to protect – Sure Start and the Building Schools of the Future programme to name but a few. And there are the inevitable mistakes that I want us to learn from.

First though, I want the blisters on my feet to heal and the many thousands of Labour members – our volunteer army of progressives and community builders, to get a well earned rest. We asked a lot of them these last months and years. And in the face of adversity, they helped prevent a hubristic David Cameron command an overall majority in the House of Commons. I’m proud of them for that.

In the whirlwind of Westminster news cycles, my colleagues and I sometimes develop a kind of collective anxiety that drives us to instantly react to every twist and turn of events.

When under pressure and facing uncertainty, it’s an understandable response. Yet at these times it is often more effective to be still. We are in a period when our movement should remain calm and reflective.

A couple of months for the party to take stock, to work out what we did right and wrong, would help prepare our new leader for the challenge of a ConDem government.

I’ve not often gone in for toff-bashing but one thing I know about these two particular public school boys in Number 10 is that they’re both well-mannered, charming and utterly ruthless. The idea that their partnership will fall apart by October is missing just how well-trained they are for power. They’ll do anything to win. Dissent will be charmed away or crushed.

A number of colleagues have said to me that Liberal Democrat back benchers will not stomach seeing their front bench colleagues make the compromises that ministers very often have to make. This misses the point. With 20 odd ministerial positions, all Nick Clegg has to do is promise his 57 MPs a turn in the ministerial Prius over the next five years.

His job is easy. He could even have a ministerial rota. It’s harder for David Cameron to manage the expectations of his party old guard but many of them retired last week. So we’re in this for the long haul. And though depressing, it gives us plenty of time to prepare for the next general election.

So why don’t we learn from Michael Howard? Why not turn our conference into a platform for our future leaders. Give a day to each candidate to make their pitch. We could even test their TV skills with a big election-style debate.

The Labour Party couldn’t do this for much of the 1980’s because it was split. Using our conference to focus on potential leaders would have been suicidal. Yet we now have some amazingly talented potential candidates. They’re all broadly pro-european progressive social democrats who can make a difference.

Whichever of them wins, they’re going to lead a newly invigorated Labour party. I’m told 3000 people have joined or re-joined in the last 48 hours. We should give these members the chance to have their say about the future.

So let us slow down, be calm and think about what we’ve done right and wrong in the last 13 years. Then we can have an enjoyable, positive leadership election that focuses on the future.

Why I opposed Libel costs reform yesterday

by Tom Watson MP     March 31, 2010 at 10:05 pm

Yesterday, a Statutory Instrument that would have reformed costs in English libel cases was stalled at committee stage after several MPs voted to block a reduction of lawyers’ success fees from a 100 per cent mark-up to 10 per cent. Here, exclusively, Tom Watson explains why.

Libel reform campaigners, anxious for progress, understandably pressing for great change, do a disservice to the campaign if they focus their ire on the people who rejected the ill-conceived proposals, hurriedly presented yesterday in Committee Room 12 of the House of Commons.

Briefly, let me make the case for the libel reform I want to see.

  1. End libel tourism.
  2. I want the burden of proof rule to be reversed for big corporations who bully writers, creators and scientists.
  3. I would like to see a change to statute of limitations and the multiple publications rule that’s not fit for purpose in the digital age.
  4. I’d like to see a defence of “responsible journalism” defined in law.
  5. And I’d like the law of “criminal libel” to be junked in Scotland as it was South of the border last year.

I came to these conclusions, having heard evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee for our inquiry ‘Press Standards, Privacy and Libel’.
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Supporting Yessika Hoyos Morales

by Tom Watson MP     December 15, 2009 at 5:23 pm

Yessika Hoyos Morales and Tom Watson MPIt was a very great honour to meet Yessika Hoyos Morales of the Corporacion Colectivo de Abogados for lunch today.

Yessika is a deeply inspiring character and has given me the energy to pressure the government into taking a tougher line with Colombia, particularly within EU negotiations on a possible free trade agreement with the country.

I shall be asking questions of the Foreign Office about the extra-judicial killings of dozens of trades unionists in Colombia, many of which are linked to the Colombian army.
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We need to make our voice heard on file-sharing

by Tom Watson MP     August 30, 2009 at 3:00 pm

Today’s Sunday Times published a thoughtful contribution to the filesharing debate from Peter Mandelson. In it, he not only displays his understanding that the Internet, when used well, is about dialogue but also shows his stoicism at the route one style of conversation that takes place in the blogosphere ;-)

To those who have raised their voices about the proposed changes this week, let me say that I hear their concerns. I have read their blogs and can live with the abuse (I’ve had worse)

I see the article as a positive step and should be seen by digital rights campaigners and concerned ISPs that the door is still open. Now is the time to firmly make their case in the consultation on P2P.

I hope that the officials and special advisers to Lord Mandelson who may be reading blogs and briefing him might remember that the music industry have got past form at trying to pretend that technological advance isn’t happening.
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