POLITICS

Tom Watson 'Euphoric' At Leveson Deal, Says MPs Lived In 'Screaming Terror' Of Newspapers

18/03/2013 19:15 GMT

Tom Watson has welcomed moves to impose new regulation on the press after years of "screaming terror" felt by MPs who feared newspapers would turn their fire on them.

Watson, who pursued a long campaign against News International over phone hacking, told the Commons on Monday that the cross-party agreement to introduce a new royal charter to oversee newspapers in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry was an "euphoric" moment.

"We have learnt some pretty dark things about ourselves," he said. "They did not all perhaps appreciate the scale of what went on, but everybody knew that a crucial part of our nation’s body politic was rotten."

"We did not know that they were hacking Milly Dowler’s phone, but we knew that that was the kind of thing they did. We knew that there were virtually no limits to the kind of things they did, and we did nothing."

Watson added: "We joined in with what they did to other people because it made it less likely—we thought—that they would do it to us.

"At the root of all this was fear: an abject, dark-hours-of-the-morning screaming terror that they would turn the lights of hatred on us, destroy us and humiliate us—with pure lies or half truth, it did not matter which—deliberately and viciously, for no reason other than because they can, it makes money and it is just what they do."

Watson took aim at Rupert Murdoch and accused David Cameron of still living in fear of News Corporation newspapers.

"He still sits at the head of the most powerful media conglomerate the world has ever seen and he still has politicians in his pocket," Watson said.

"They still will not change the media ownership rules because they are frightened of him and they curry his favour.

"Amid it all, the prime minister looks over his shoulder as Murdoch’s people start to replace the current generation of leaders with the next.

"It is most naked on the Conservative Benches, but let us not avert our eyes again and pretend that it is not happening on the Labour and Liberal Democrat Benches, too.

"As we reflect on the terrible cost of failures today, let us not leave the lessons half learned. Our children will not thank us for leaving the hydra with one head."