Tom Watson, the man who hated Brittan, appeared before the Home Affairs committee this afternoon. In earlier evidence it became clear that the Met was divided on the rape allegations against the late Lord Brittan. Detective Chief Inspector Settle said that to subject him to an interview under caution would have constituted ‘a baseless witch-hunt’. Dep Assist Commissioner Steve Rodhouse disagreed and said it was unusual not to question a rape suspect.
Tom Watson played a role as the victim’s cheerleader. He wrote a letter urging the DPP to ensure that Brittain was quizzed. DCI Settle called Watson’s actions ‘undermining’ and ‘a low blow.’ He said Watson had caused panic in the police. Steve Rodhouse disagreed. He’d seen no panic.
Then Watson was called. Committee chairman Keith ‘Vazza’ Vaz greeted him with a kittenish grin and allowed the committee to bask in the revelation that he had nominated Watson as Labour’s deputy leader. So had David Winnick seated on the chairman’s right hand. Vazza went on the attack. Sort of. He quoted Watson’s phrase that Lord Brittan ‘was as close to evil as any human being could get’.
‘A bit emotional,’ said Vazza as if comforting a tearful lollipop lady.
Watson had his defence ready. The phrase had originated from a victim, he said, and he apologised ‘for repeating it.’ Asked to extend his contrition to the Brittan family he picked his grammar carefully.
‘I’m sincerely sorry for the hurt caused to Lady Brittan.’
Note the missing personal pronoun between ‘hurt’ and ‘caused’. Winnick next. He made a speech disguised as a question in which he praised Watson’s fine work exposing the hacking scandal. He gave him a chance to plug his book on the subject.
‘What was it called?’
‘Dial M for Murdoch,’ said Watson.
Everyone chuckled. This was going well. Then things got surreal. Vazza spotted Prezza gossiping at the back of the room.
‘Order please, Lord Prescott. We do not want chatting in the gallery.’
The heat went up when Victoria Atkins got stuck in. She suggested that Watson had become too close to a witness called ‘Jane’. Had he videoed their meetings? Watson had not. This omission might have jeopardised a prosecution.
Atkins: ‘If defence counsel had accused you of coaching a vulnerable complainant you’d have had no evidence to contrary.’
Watson said he was merely trying to get Jane’s voice ‘amplified in the system’. Atkins accused him of exceeding his powers as an MP and turning himself into an investigator.
‘You must be worried about the way you’ve handled this?’ she said icily.
‘Y’can only do y’best,’ said Watson with a shrug.
Vazza raised the subject of Watson’s tribal loyalty to Labour. Like Winnick he made a speech not an accusation. And he answered it himself.
‘You are very tribal: your campaign against News International was separate from any criticism of the Mirror. So can you categorically say to this committee that whatever [allegations] you get, on an all-party basis, you put to the police?’
‘Absolutely,’ said Watson.
And he was off. He’d barely broken a sweat. This wasn’t a grilling. It was barely a tickling. Of course Watson is Vazza’s boss within the Labour hierarchy. Could that have something to do with it?