Birmingham & Black Country

MP Tom Watson reveals media impact on him and family

Tom Watson
Image caption Tom Watson is sitting on the select committee looking into allegations of phone-hacking

An MP who has led a campaign against phone-hacking has spoken about the impact of the media on himself and his family.

Labour MP for West Bromwich East Tom Watson told BBC WM's Hard Talk series he cried over comments by a deputy political editor at the Sun, saying the worst moment in recent years was when he was libelled in the newspaper.

Mr Watson, who has two children aged six and three, has raised the phone-hacking issue in the House of Commons and demanded more action from the police, prosecutors and Parliament.

He is sitting on the select committee looking into allegations of phone-hacking, which has called for evidence from Rupert Murdoch and News International.

'So harsh'

In 2006, Mr Watson resigned as a defence minister, calling for Tony Blair to quit in the interest of the Labour Party and the country.

He was accused of conspiring against Mr Blair with Gordon Brown when it emerged he had visited the then chancellor at his home in Scotland shortly before stepping down. Both men denied any plot.

Mr Watson was later accused of being involved in the scandal surrounding a plot by Gordon Brown's spin doctor, Damian McBride, to spread smears about senior Tories.

The Mail on Sunday accused him of "encouraging" Mr McBride while the Sun published a cartoon of him under the headline "Mad dog was trained to maul".

Mr Watson subsequently won "substantial" libel damages from both newspapers in the High Court, which ruled the stories linking him to the plot were not true.

The MP said the worst moment in recent years was when he was libelled, adding a former political editor at the Sun called him a "liar" and the words of a deputy political editor were "so harsh and so untrue" that he burst into tears.

Mr Watson said: "That's probably the most miserable week of my life.

"The stress was immense. We'd got a new baby. I'd got a young boy. You think about 'how do I protect my family?', these people at the door, we're not safe in our home.

"There's pressure down in London, ministers going crazy working lots of sort of 'who did what to who?'

"That week, [about 2008 at Easter] I seriously thought about standing down from Parliament and having a quieter life.

"Then just before the election I seriously thought about standing down, but you know there's still much more I want to give."

Mr Watson said in the last two weeks he had "probably been more free from abuse in the press" than he ever had been.

"The kids [a son and daughter] have been seeing me on telly this week and I hope one day they know I've done some good."

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