Tom Watson (pictured at Glastonbury last year) spent Tuesday entertaining his followers on Twitter with photographs of a haul of personal memorabilia
Tom Watson spent Tuesday entertaining his followers on Twitter with photographs of a haul of personal memorabilia his elderly father recently found in the attic.
It included such touching artefacts as the flyer for a 1985 pop concert in Brixton headlined by The Communards, which the lifelong alternative music fan presumably attended, and a Labour Party membership card dating back to the same year, when he’d just turned 18.
Little did Watson know, as he shared images of these teenage possessions, that a very different sort of historical document was about to be made public.
This one would throw Labour’s 51-year-old deputy leader to the centre of an escalating political row – causing immediate damage to his standing in the party, and raising serious questions about the veteran power-broker’s integrity and judgment.
The Daily Mail’s extraordinary revelations about Max Mosley’s racist past made awkward reading for Watson, who is not only his closest political ally and friend, but who has also accepted £540,000 in donations from the disgraced former motorsports tycoon.
Mosley’s ‘car-crash’ TV interview that night, when he repeatedly insisted on Channel 4 News there was ‘no reason to apologise’ for the racist pamphlet published under his name at a 1961 by-election in Manchester, considerably upped the ante.
Unsurprisingly, his woeful performance led to immediate calls for Tom Watson to return the huge sums of now-tainted cash that Mosley has funnelled his way over the past two-and-a-half years.
With the help of Max Mosley’s enormous donations, Watson (pictured with Jeremy Corbyn in September last year) has been able to employ no fewer than nine full-time staff members, four of whom were recruited in 2016
Labour’s announcement yesterday that it will no longer be accepting Mosley’s money (though for now it will not be giving any back, either!) is of course publicly humiliating for Watson, whose reputation has already been damaged in recent years by his role in obsessively propagating conspiracy theories about a historic Westminster paedophile ring which turned out to be fake.
Yet behind the scenes, its impact will be more serious still.
For Mosley’s patronage has, in recent years, allowed this canny politician to occupy a critical position within his party, using his official office as a sort of alternative power-base for moderate Labour MPs opposed to, or at least uncomfortable with, the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.
With the help of Max Mosley’s enormous donations, Watson has been able to employ no fewer than nine full-time staff members, four of whom were recruited in 2016, when Mosley (who had supported Watson’s deputy leadership campaign to the tune of £40,000) wrote him a cheque for another £200,000.
This body of staff, the third largest in Parliament, was supported with a further £300,000 from Mosley last year, helping him exert considerable influence over such key matters as Labour candidate selection and policy formulation, blunting some of the most egregious efforts by the hard-Left Momentum movement to force out centrist rivals.
Controversially, Watson's office was reported to be tacitly backing Owen Smith (pictured), the Blairite who attempted to dislodge Corbyn via a hostile leadership bid in 2016
More controversially, his office was reported to be tacitly backing Owen Smith, the Blairite who attempted to dislodge Corbyn via a hostile leadership bid in 2016.
Team Watson’s apparent support for Smith, who was roundly thrashed, was embarrassingly laid bare at one point during the campaign, when Watson’s twentysomething girlfriend Stephanie Peacock – who was then a trade union activist but is now a Labour MP – was accidentally photographed at one of his rallies.
The truth is that the disgracing of Mosley was a disaster that Tom Watson ought to have seen coming long ago.
His friendship with Max Mosley, which stems from their shared obsession with pushing draconian Press regulation through Parliament, has always been the subject of controversy. Some believed that the tycoon’s prior form as a tax exile – Mosley lived in Monaco until 2010 – makes him an entirely unsuitable benefactor for a party that spent the last election campaigning against tax avoiders, and tiresomely insisting they were the champions of ‘the many, not the few’.
Others argue that accepting cash from a wealthy individual who is obsessed with a singular agenda – in Mosley’s case, attacking major news organisations – is always a dangerous game to play.
Indeed, presenter Robert Peston last February used an ITV interview to raise this very concern, suggesting that Watson had allowed