Tom Watson, the Digital Engagement Minister, is named in the one of the emails from McBride to Draper where he says they have just “had a chat”. Tom was not copied in on the email – why bother emailing someone you sit next to? Watson boasted on his blog only last week that he was influenced by reading Mudslingers: The Twenty-five Dirtiest Political Campaigns of All Time. The blurb says “the political historian who is intrigued by the down right nasty will be interested in Mudslingers”.
You can’t judge a book by the cover, but you can make a judgement from a man’s reading choices.
Guido knows from personal experience just how poisonous Watson can be. When the Smith Institute stories started to gain traction in late 2006, Watson and McBride were the architects of the counter-attack. Labour’s political research unit went through every detail of Guido’s life. Watson, no doubt in league with McBride, then tried to place dirt. All of a sudden details of Guido’s life became public knowledge. Anonymous emails were sent to Guido with Mrs Fawkes work email address highlighted with instructions to “drop it”. The woman got threats sent to her office. Unfortunately it being a counter-attack organised by idiots, the woman being got at was a woman with the same name working in the same industry. The police were called in – the threats could not be traced back.
Watson tried to place the infamous Student-Guido-BNP-link smear (long story, but the journalist who wrote the original story apologised in writing and wrote a 300 word retraction). Whenever Guido got a call – and he did get a few – he simply gave the journalist concerned a copy of the retraction and the number for the author of the original article. Watson/McBride tried to re-ignite the story with the Guardian, Independent on Sunday, Observer and New Statesman. None would print it because it didn’t stand up. It was from sources at the Statesman that Guido learnt it was Downing Street doing the smearing.
On February 11, 2007, the story appeared simultaneously on a number of left-wing blogs who lapped it up gleefully. Tom Watson immediately highlighted it early on a Sunday morning on his blog. He added to the allegations on his own blog with a suggestion that Cameron and Osborne might have done drugs and attended “illegal raves” organised by Guido; “They’re the same age and were knocking about in the same crowd. Just a thought”. Guido got hold of Counsel (on a Sunday), Counsel said it was extraordinary to see such varied libels in one paragraph. Watson got a legal warning by email, immediately he pulled the article. The other blogs followed suit. When Watson plays dirty, he plays really dirty.
Over at Cowley Street they believe, but were never able to prove, that the now defunct LibDemWatch site was spawned by Tom Watson – they were able only to trace it back to the parliamentary servers. The British Bullshit Foundation blog was another prototype attack blog. It was widely assumed to be run out of Watson’s private office – Watson when challenged denied this, only to admit on his blog later that he had met the author.
It was Watson who with unintentionally hilarious consequences uploaded the Sion Simon / WebCameron attack video. Watson had the sense to take down the video when it was met with a universal backlash over the way it brought in Cameron’s wife and children. It also showed what a complete prat Sion Simon can be.
There is a clear pattern of behaviour, Watson has form for using the internet for attacking opponents and their families, often anonymously. Even when he isn’t directly implicated (as once again this time) he is never far away.
The Tories need to demand Gus O’Donnell gathers up and reviews all emails sent by Tom Watson to the likes of Kevin Maguire and Derek Draper. If Tom Watson really wants to clear his name, and he has been threatening the BBC with lawyers, let Gus have a look. Of course, Tories could just make FoI/DPA requests for emails of which they are the subject.