The potential for brouhaha lurks on any party guest list; but the stakes are not often as high as they were last night at the Savile Club, where hacks and MPs – both past and present – gathered for the launch of Jerry Hayes’s naughty memoir An Unexpected MP. Tension mounted when former News of the World executive Alex Marunchak came face to face with Tom Watson, self-styled scourge of the Murdoch Empire.
Readers may recall that in March 2012 Watson made a series of allegations in parliament about Marunchak concerning the News of the World and the murder of the private investigator Daniel Morgan in 1987. As the Press Gazette reported:
‘During a Commons adjournment debate he claimed that Daniel Morgan went to Marunchak with a story making allegations about police corruption a week before he died, that he was offered £40,000 for the story.’
Marunchak hit back at the time:
‘Mercifully I didn’t see Tom Watson’s performance but regret it came slightly too late for him to be an also-ran at the Oscar ceremony. It astonishes me an MP can abuse parliamentary privilege and waste everybody’s time by peddling untruths in this way. I have never met Watson, nor talked or communicated with him in any way. Perhaps I should make this clear at the outset – lest he be found crucified on a hill overlooking Jerusalem and I am held, in some way, to be responsible.’
Mr S can report that they both remained civil last night.
Some revellers wondered why Watson is so circumspect in his remarks when not protected by parliamentary privilege, while others were bewitched by Marunchak’s rather menacing air. ‘It’s safe to say Tom felt that,’ said a fellow party guest. Mr S agrees: terrifying.
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