Good riddance to Tom Watson

He is an authoritarian, a conspiracist and an anti-democrat.

Tom Slater

Tom Slater
Deputy Editor

Topics Brexit Politics UK

Tom Watson’s shock departure from parliament has apparently come as a blow to centrists everywhere. His decision to step down as Labour deputy leader and MP for West Bromwich East has already been written up as yet more proof that British politics has been taken over by the ‘extremes’. ‘Can the last sane MP in Westminster turn out the lights’, tweeted one commentator last night.

We have seen much the same response in recent weeks as various Conservative ‘moderates’ have announced they will not be seeking re-election. Many of them had the whip withdrawn for voting against the government on the so-called Surrender Bill to extend Article 50. Understandably so, given they effectively kneecapped their own government’s negotiating strategy. Still, it was presented as a ‘purge’.

The narrative goes something like this. Just as the ‘moderate’ Amber Rudds and Philip Hammonds of this world have been pushed out of the Tory Party by Hard Brexit ideologues, so it is with Tom Watson and others in Labour. This standard bearer for ‘sensible’ Labourism has finally given up in the face of the Corbynista takeover of his party.

Read between the lines, however, and it pretty quickly becomes clear that ‘moderate’ is just a codeword for Remainer. It’s not really about being moderate at all. Which is why the label is still liberally applied to those in both the Labour and Tory parties who have done everything in their power to overturn the Brexit vote, the biggest democratic mandate in British political history. Which is a pretty immoderate thing to do.

But using the words sensible and moderate to describe Tom Watson really is a crime against language. And not just because he, too, was committed to overturning the Leave vote, over the heads of the 68 per cent of his constituents who voted for it. Few MPs in recent years have taken as many authoritarian and indefensible positions as Watson. Even fewer have done so with such craven opportunism.

Discussion of Watson’s departure has so far been focused on what it all means for the election and for Labour. Will this dog their campaign? Have the New Labourites finally lost to the far left in the battle for the ‘soul’ of the Labour Party? Interesting questions, sure. But we should take this opportunity to scrutinise Watson’s record. Because it is horrendous.

Watson arrived in parliament in 2001, quickly becoming a New Labour loyalist, drawn into Gordon Brown’s orbit. Naturally, he voted for the Iraq War. He recently said he still loses sleep over that decision, but that at least he learned from his mistake. Which I’m sure is of great comfort to the families of the dead, and the inhabitants of that region, still plunged into chaos by him and his colleagues’ learning experience.

Fast forward a few years and Watson was focusing his authoritarian instincts on causes closer to home. Following the phone-hacking scandal at the News of the World in 2011, he became a prominent backer of press regulation. For him, you could say it was personal: during the expenses scandal a Sun hack nicknamed him ‘Tommy two-dinners’ over revelations that he claimed the maximum £400 per month food allowance.

Watson was among the most prominent MPs pushing for the introduction of state-backed regulation, which would have been the first such system since Crown licensing was abolished in 1695. It was a plan that very nearly succeeded in the form of something called Section 40, which would have forced publications to sign up to a state-backed regulator. And had they refused, they would have been liable to pay the costs of any court case brought against them, even if they won.

In this battle against press freedom, Watson made some interesting allies. Max Mosley – son of the fascist leader Oswald Mosley and a long-time proponent of press regulation – gave £540,000 to Watson’s office. Watson said he was ‘very proud to call Max Mosley a friend’. He even stuck by his mate Max last year when the Mail revealed Mosley’s involvement in the publication of a 1961 leaflet railing against ‘coloured immigration’.

Watson’s parliamentary career shows how conspiracism has entered the political mainstream. What seemed to motor his crusades was the conviction that shadowy cliques were pulling the strings. In 2012 he published a mad book called Dial M for Murdoch, in which he accused the media baron Rupert Murdoch (owner of the Sun and others) of running a ‘shadow state’ and exercising a ‘poisonous, secretive influence on public life’.

This conspiracist bent led him into easily the most unsavoury chapter of his already chequered career. In 2014, Watson met Carl Beech, then known to the public as ‘Nick’ – a man who claimed he was the victim of a VIP paedophile ring that went right to the top of Westminster. Beech told lurid stories of rape, abuse and murder. And the police, desperate to atone for the Jimmy Savile scandal, launched a witch-hunt, cheered on by the likes of Watson.

Watson did all he could to spread the conspiracy theory. He repeated Beech’s claims in the House of Commons, under the protection of parliamentary privilege. He later lobbied the Crown Prosecution Service to pursue an investigation into former home secretary Leon Brittan, one of the men Beech accused, over another unsubtantiated rape allegation dating back to 1967. Brittan died in 2015, with the case still hanging over him. Watson took the opportunity of Brittan’s death to denounce him in the Commons as ‘close to evil’.

Beech’s claims were completely made up, and all those named were cleared. He was eventually arrested and exposed as a fantasist, and a paedophile to boot. But not before he and his high-profile supporters had dragged a string of prominent men’s names through the mud, doing irreparable damage to due process. Watson has never apologised for the role he played in this modern-day witch-hunt and has even had the cheek to suggest that he, too, was a victim of Beech’s lies.

So this is the man they call sensible. This is the man they call a moderate. It’s a testament to the screwy political times we live in that someone who promotes the shackling of the press, and the overthrow of popular democracy, and who dabbles in lurid conspiracy theories, should be considered part of the cool-headed mainstream. And it’s a testament to some Remainer commentators’ moral rot that being anti-Brexit apparently absolves a politician of all his other sins.

Tom Slater is deputy editor at spiked. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Slater_

Picture by: Getty

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.


Fred Mutton

25th November 2019 at 5:12 pm

Politician! about 4 out of the 640 have a vestige of credibility.

Steve Griffiths

17th November 2019 at 7:26 am

Superb piece, but you could also have mentioned his anti-free speech crusade against Tommy Robinson and his attempt to get him banned from YouTube (his last remaining significant online forum). Watson cited hate speech in his characteristically self-righteous, authoritarian public letter to Google CEO, Sundar Pinchai, although TR had broken no laws in this regard and had not breeched YouTube’s terms of service. He also used the Let’s favourite tactic of silencing opposition by accusing him of racism ( without any evidence of course because there is no evidence!).
For the record, Robinson is still on YouTube albeit in a very restricted format.

John Carins

13th November 2019 at 4:20 pm

Why isn’t Watson being investigated by the Met Police? Why isn’t the Met Police being investigated?

Bill Cecil

10th November 2019 at 2:27 pm

He is as ‘close to evil’ as it is possible for any human to get. Good riddence to bad rubbish, but it is a great pity he isn’t rotting in Pentonville Prison.

Stef Steer

10th November 2019 at 7:57 am

Yep he was a nasty piece of work pretending to be a nice guy. Good riddance indeed.

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10th November 2019 at 2:02 am

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Frank Sutton

8th November 2019 at 2:37 pm

According to piece in the telegraph, the labour party will be meaner and nastier without him. Hard to imagine a party so foul that Watson would be an asset!

steve moxon

8th November 2019 at 1:30 am

As well as being a gullible ‘PC’-totalitarian groupthink thicko and malicious conspiracy nut, he uses the old lame ‘it’s not the party I joined’ blather — like Liebore ever was anything better than it is now under Bliar & Gorgon — instead of admitting he’s just frit of his electorate and local selection panel.
A lot of lousy dead wood has been got rid of already. Amber Rudd off to obscurity, alone is worth calling an election for. Then there’ll be the pleasure of seeing Anna Soubrey scowl even more than usual on election night, as well as some Liebore feminist Remoaner horror stories lose their North/Midland behinds.

Jerry Owen

8th November 2019 at 5:25 pm

Steve Moxon
Soubry losing her seat is something I can’t wait to see, I got the beers in.. goose bumps thinking about it!

H McLean

7th November 2019 at 8:45 pm

Labour churn out anti-democratic authoritarians by the bucket load. Give it five minutes and another rapacious unprincipled hypocrite will emerge to take his place.

John Marks

7th November 2019 at 6:49 pm

Good riddance to bad, B’liarite rubbish.
He’ll probably join the pink Tories – where he belongs.

cliff resnick

7th November 2019 at 6:33 pm

Who can forget the despicable parliamentary grand standing of Tom Watson on the absurd “Nick” allegation? Anybody with a sense of decency or any sense at all would have been very cautious over such a shocking and unbelievable accusations, but not Tom Watson this was manner from heaven. I’m not surprised he’s gone, kyboshed momentum, by brexit and by his own petard. Not sorry to him go.

James Knight

7th November 2019 at 6:28 pm

Maybe he should start his own you tube channel, like info wars.

jessica christon

7th November 2019 at 6:22 pm

Watson was the very worst example of a breed of politician that is still far too numerous in parliament, even after all the resignations. I doubt if any of their replacements will be much different; they’ll just have a clean slate to lie to the public about ‘respecting’ the referendum, but will show their true colours once they get elected just like their predecessors did and it will be interesting to see if the public fall for it again. And I wouldn’t be surprised if TW turned out to be a paedophile himself, just like his mate Carl Beech.

Christopher Tyson

7th November 2019 at 5:25 pm

Blairism, Third Way, Triangulation, call it what you will. The centrist, as defined by themselves, defined themselves against the Left and the Right or even the extreme Left and Right. They made an equivalence between the Left and Right, they narrowed the political agenda, using PR and media and introducing ‘spin’. Like the identitarians that followed them, they were philosophical idealists, they struggle to distinguish ideas and language from reality. Having banished the ideas of Left and Right, they imagined that swathes of the population had similarly vanished. Cool Britannia, patriotism with the nasty bits taken out, we were all stakeholders now (not shareholders) in UK plc, the licenced rebellion of Brit pop taken for the real thing. But all those old and middle aged and untrendy people did not disappear, and the reality of the Brexit vote is difficult for the centrists to deny, but they’ve certainly given it a good go. Actually some of us aren’t that uncool, got A’Level too, when they were hard.

Jerry Owen

7th November 2019 at 12:25 pm

Good article covers just about everything about the odious creature.
It is such a pleasure watching these wretched people jump before they are pushed.
I would of course much prefer them to face the music from the electorate and watch their faces drop at the count on the podium.. just so i can watch it on YT, several times!
Soubry you stick in there girl don’t deprive me of my ultimate pleasure which i have yet to witness !

A Game

7th November 2019 at 11:39 am

And another one bites the dust… and another one, yeah, and another one, yeah, and another one bites the dust… hey!
So sad when their political ineptitude catches up with them, isn’t it? The timing of his quitting suggests his electorate was going to hand him his arse.
That there is work to do to rescue UK Labour from the mad fascist/communists… that there would be a role as a backbencher to play… but no, no…
Anway, give it a week, tops and he’ll re-emerge as a Lib Dem. Sounds like his liberalism and democratic leanings will fit right in, over there in Revokeville.

The interesting aspect to T Slater’s article, of course, is this Orwellian twist on what is moderate, what is sane, etc… all listed out very nicely in the article.
It goes to the Remainer camp, the Progressive camp… why on earth don’t they have genuine heroes? Why are they hanging their whole wardrobe on a bumbler? That they do have to talk him up as one of the “good uns”. Where are the genuine good uns? (Like their arguments for Remain – no genuine case, just the lies, the smear, the hysteria, but can’t argue why the UK should join the Euro, can’t argue why centralised power is working best, and people should give up more direct levers of democratic control.) To make him a moderate hero of sense of reason, why do they have to ignore that he wasn’t? That when tested, he was grossly lacking in that department. Why can’t they talk about the loss of potential? That its a pity he isn’t going to stay for the fight to get Labour away from the nutters? The lament that he is quitting and hasn’t got the bottle to stand up, proud, as a democratic remainer to his ill-educated, racist constituency and fight the good fight?

And when are the media going to grill Jezza about why its a brilliant idea to ignore the first referendum… as in, what were the inherent flaws that that result cannot be upheld? (I want him up in Workington talking about racist, illiterate, xenophobic leave voters… who didn’t know what they were voting for. C’mon, media… get your sh*t together… go get some juiciness in this tired mixed grill. Letting Labour bang on about the NHS… again… zzzzzzz.) This bit doesn’t belong here, but I just thought of it.

Jerry Owen

7th November 2019 at 4:45 pm

When you hear many of these people on the radio, i can’t help thinking Radio Ga Ga.
Sorry couldn’t resist !

A Game

8th November 2019 at 4:21 pm

Well, Jerry, I did open the door. Strange that Queen, marginalised by the mainstream music industry for most of their “career”, managed to basically create a song for every situation in life.
I read somewhere someone asking what song could be a Brexit Party anthem. Ummmm… “We are the Champions” popped into my head. “We’ll keep on fighting, to the end… da da dum…”

Jerry Owen

8th November 2019 at 5:33 pm

A Game
For the AGW goofs I guess ‘Bicycle race’ is their chosen song, or possibly ‘save me’.
How about ‘one vision’ for the Brexit anthem ?

Ven Oods

7th November 2019 at 11:11 am

First he shed the flab and now we’ll see *even less* of him.
What’s not to like?

Michael Lynch

7th November 2019 at 10:56 am

Brilliant news this. Except for the fact that he robbed us of seeing him humiliated by his own constituents in the GE. He really was a gutless little wannabe and a vile human being to boot. His interference over the Beech case was unforgivable. I’m so glad this hypocritical ideologue has finally gone. Politicians of his ilk have poisoned Parliament with their use of identity politics and political correctness. Very few will mourn his departure.

K Tojo

7th November 2019 at 11:57 am

Interesting to see how many of these enthusiasts for “true parliamentary democracy” prefer to jump rather than risk being pushed by the very people whose interests they claim to champion.

Still, it’s not all bad news – Dominic Grieve’s constituents will have a chance to vote him out.

Mike Ellwood

9th November 2019 at 6:38 pm

Ditto Jo Swindle’s.

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