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Tom Watson on the battle for FOI

Tom Watson MP, best known as the man who has uncovered so much of the UK's phone hacking scandal, gave the PA Annual Lecture on "Parliament and Phone Hacking". The lecture is here, with the discussion of FOI from 30 mins. In it he makes the case that his revelations of misbehaviour and outright corruption around the phone hacking scandal were entirely dependent on the Freedom of Information Act. He points out that the mandarinate and much of the political class are now seeking to restrict the scope of the Act and that we will now have a fight on our hands.

Climategate is mentioned briefly - referred to as a "scandal".

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Reader Comments (18)

I'd never heard of him until the Murdoch witchtrials and his grandstanding and Cotton Mather attitude was appalling. Good of him to care about FOI but his political radar is alarmist and IMHO having him on the sound of of FOP means FOI will invariably get wound back. Tom Watson strikes me as the kind of bloke who always overplays his hand.

Jan 22, 2012 at 9:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterWB

Check this link out LOL

Jan 22, 2012 at 10:10 AM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

"Check this link out LOL"

...the well-known poisonous gas carbon dioxide (molecular formula: C666O2)...


Jan 22, 2012 at 12:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A


Checked out the link.


Jan 22, 2012 at 12:35 PM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

Didn't Blair refer to the FOI act as his "greatest mistake"? I've read Peter Oborne's book The Rise of Political Lying, so I can well understand why Blair might have thought that!

Jan 22, 2012 at 12:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobinson

Jamspid...I also say brilliant.

Jan 22, 2012 at 1:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Walsh

Jamspid - Brilliant link.

Jan 22, 2012 at 2:14 PM | Unregistered Commenterlapogus

This may be useful, but please bear in mind that Tom Watson is a revolting piece of work. A professional liar and a bully. He has never paid for his important role in Gordon Brown's No10 Dirty tricks Squad. Google: Redrag, Derek Draper, Charlie Whelan, and smearing Samantha Cameron.


Jan 22, 2012 at 2:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-record

jamspid Jan 22, 2012 at 10:10 AM

Check this link out LOL

I am inclined to thing that the Climate Change religion will be with us for many years to come - there are now so many indoctrinated teachers and schoolchildren and so many who benefit from it, including the Great and the Good. Perhaps it will still be going strong two thousand years from now. Any denier who points out that the planet has not significantly warmed will be told that that simply shows the benefit of the measures adopted.

If the Climate Change religion does eventually come to an end, it will probably be because of having been laughed out of existence.

Jan 22, 2012 at 2:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

Stuck-record makes an excellent point. Watson is unbelievably sanctimonious given his previous activities.

Jan 22, 2012 at 3:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobinson

As with all politicians, and particularly the breed we've seen over the past 30 years or so, who've never had a career outside politics, it's important not to take him at face value.

Jan 22, 2012 at 4:14 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

Tom Watson is a revolting piece of work . . . Google: Redrag, Derek Draper, Charlie Whelan, and smearing Samantha Cameron.

I searched as suggested but can find nothing in MSM reports of "Smeargate" that seriously supports the notion that Tom Watson was involved in the affair. What am I missing?

Jan 22, 2012 at 5:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveB

TPTB do not like the present FoI arrangements - and that includes Mr Watson's cronies in NuLab. Far too close to accountability for comfort.

The executive, aided by the likes of Mr Watson have assiduously "de-public-ed" and arms-length-ed our public servants via an arsenal of subterfuge into "agencies" like DVLA, The Passport Agency, VOSA, The Environment Agency, FSA and the rest - whose performance has been self evidently miserable, overly expensive and accountability non existent. They've been making it up as they go to suit themselves with no oversight, bullying their "customers" and have become expensive liabilities.

Parliament passed the statute in 2010 setting out the legal obligations of the Civil Servant's Code of Conduct = honesty, transparency, fairness, the obligation to make amends if injury is inflicted etc., etc.

The "agencies" are bleating that that doesn't apply to them - and there is muttering about them being independent and able to largely dictate the terms of any answers to questions about their internal workings.

The exasperating pantomime of marketing, customer relationship management and self regarding corporatist drivel that emanates from these public bodies playing at being "dynamic enterprises"makes one want them to actually come over to "the private side" where they would fail and disappear...

But essentially UK public bodies want your cake and the room to eat it at their convenience.

On the subject of phone hacking - careful watching of the admissions by various individuals indicates conclusively that there has been major collusion in the snooping of telephones from the telecoms companies - the rapidity of detail information provision to the "fusible link" private investigators plus the millions in payments from all the newspapers indicates a major revenue earner - and, probably a cash based one to boot - there's the real scandal - one wonders what skeletons are still locked up, keeping the investigation of that stonewalled.

Jan 22, 2012 at 7:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterTomO

"...Murdoch witchtrials..."

Yeah! The guy is whiter than white.

Jan 22, 2012 at 8:16 PM | Unregistered CommentersHx

Leading climate scientists have given their support to a Freedom of Information request seeking to disclose who is funding the Global Warming Policy Foundation.

Seems they haven't been getting anywhere. So at least here you and the 'opposition' have a common cause.

Jan 23, 2012 at 12:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterScots Renewables


Here's a couple of links from opposite ends of the political spectrum.

The context is that Watson was intimately involved with the architects of the REDRAG smear campaign (Draper, McBride, Whelan, Balls), yet never paid with his job. And REDRAG was simply the latest in a long line of such attempts. It is rank hypocracy fro Watson to rail against media misdeeds when he has spent his career abusing the media for ends both political and careerist.

Think: Alistair Campbell's stupider, crueler brother.

Jan 23, 2012 at 12:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-record

Here's a couple of links from opposite ends of the political spectrum.

The Guardian story you cite doesn't mention Watson, the other is from the Guido Fawkes blog, which is neither an MSM source as requested nor generally regarded as reliable esp., as you know, in this context.

Other MSM "Smeargate" reports did name Watson in passing reference to his having "questions to answer" but it seems the claims were not followed up, perhaps because there was no story to be had. As he'd been prominent in what passed for a campaign to oust Tony Blair and had thereby fallen foul of the appalling John Prescott, he presumably wasn't short of enemies willing to "leak" this, that and the other.

Alistair Campbell's stupider, crueler brother.

Campbell, an ex-porn author and reformed alcoholic, was Blair's press officer and a former Fleet St editor. Watson was briefly Parliamentary Secretary to the Cabinet Office but resigned in 2009, not long after Smeargate broke. Socially as well as politically, a closer parallel is perhaps not Tom Watson but Andy Coulson.

The issue as I see it is whether Watson is (a) right and (b) within his rights to defend FoI legislation. If every step taken in that regard by people one doesn't happen to like is to be undermined by ad hominem jibes, the chances of success are lowered.

(That's why, for example, I generally keep my thoughts about, say, the slightly ridiculous Viscount Monckton of Brenchley to myself. But he too strikes me as a hypocrite in that he glosses over Margaret Thatcher's critical role in making AGW an international issue.)

Jan 23, 2012 at 2:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveB

If Watson defends FOI legislation I have no problem with that.

But we'll just have to agree to differ on the nature of his character and close involvement with the No10 Smear team.

We'll also have to agree to differ about the quality of Fawkes as a 'source'. As you say he is definitely not a MSM source; a fact he would consider a badge of honour. His record of exposing the lies and hypocrisy of our 'leaders' is second to none, especially the MSM who are either in bed with them or want to be.

Jan 23, 2012 at 2:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-record

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