Tom Watson at Hay with an unfortunate sponsorhip deal…
‘We were allowing Murdoch to own more media than he should.
‘I would have hoped Murdoch could have been more contrite in his testimony to the Leveson Inquiry.
‘There was a failure of political leadership. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have to take responsibility. Five Prime Ministers are culpable.
‘I was a Defence Minister. I was told by an Admiral that they were redecorating the PM’s quarters in the nuclear bunker in case of a nuclear attack. Tony Blair offered me a tour of the nuclear bunker. It was yet another point when I felt I needed to step off. And so I did.
‘There was an interview Tony Blair gave to the Times in which he seemed to be saying he was going to go on forever. We wrote to Tony: “We think you should step down”. He said we were “disloyal, courteous, wrong.”
‘I was told by a friend that Rebekah Brooks would never forgive me for what I did to her Tony.
‘I was also warned that she’d said “This is personal. We won’t stop till we get him.”
‘At first I decided I’d had enough of the whole stinking lot. But after the Gordon Taylor revelation and then Milly Dowler, everything changed. When you start to meet people who have been innocent victims, you get a sense of obligation. Once you’re in, you’re in.
‘I honestly felt I had no choice. I thought I was going mad at the time. I was under constant surveillance. My friends were saying: “Who the hell do you think you are?” It now transpires that private investigators were following me.
‘When we were working on the Select Committee, some of the members said there would be retaliation if we “went too far.” They were furious. We were putting more security questions than they had anticipated. The order came down: “Find out everything you can about these guys.”
‘The Leveson Inquiry is about corrupt journalism, but it took the best investigative journalists to crack the story.
‘I think Jeremy Hunt should have resigned on day one. I was shocked when I read those text messages. Whatever he decides to do or whatever Cameron decides, I think the general feeling is that he should go.
‘I wish I was cross-examining Tony Blair.
‘I think the Leveson Inquiry will draw conclusions. At best, staggering incompetence… I suspect there is more to come out. The level of evidential leads that were not followed up is very high. They’d had plenty of warnings before Glenn Mulcaire was arrested. They knew there was a market in illegal information.
‘Murdoch owned too many newspapers. He became too powerful, so powerful that even Prime Ministers were afraid of him. And that wasn’t right.
‘I think Leveson will do a good job, but then it’s down to our leaders; and they can often do weird things under pressure.’
Tom Watson at the Hay Festival, Sunday Jun 3, 2012
Photos: Niall McDevitt/Helen Moore