Labour MP to write to colleagues after Max Mosley offers legal funds for any MP wanting to report alleged intimidation
Tom Watson, the Labour MP who helped uncover the hacking scandal, is to write to all other MPs asking whether they have ever been threatened or bullied by News International.
He is taking the action after Max Mosley, the former Formula One racing boss, announced he was funding legal assistance for MPs to reveal potential blackmail and intimidation against them by Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper group. Chris Bryant MP, who was also instrumental in exposing the scandal, said the intimidation of MPs was widespread and that he intended to list all the threats he had received in his evidence to the Leveson inquiry.
Watson said on Saturday: “The Leveson inquiry needs specific examples of bullying and intimidation so I will be writing to all MPs this week to ask if they have ever been threatened. They can also maintain their anonymity.”“
Mosley, who won £60,000 damages from the News of the World in 2008 over false allegations he had taken part in a “Nazi” orgy, said he was bankrolling the action in an attempt to expose News International’s hidden hold on British politics.
Mosley told the Independent that he believed at least 10 MPs might have evidence about News International’s dealings with politicians.
He said: “Organisations like Hacked Off are trying to make sure that everything that should be put in front of Leveson will be – and that’s particularly important where there have been a large number of cases where News International have set out to intimidate, even blackmail, members of parliament and other people in positions of authority.
“So as far as it’s possible to do so, those facts have to be brought to Leveson and I’m trying to help in a modest way. I am making legal advice available.”
MPs who are worried about disclosing embarrassing evidence could remain anonymous, Mosley said.
Watson has said that attempts were made by News International to make him drop his investigations into the company. Another Labour MP, Chris Bryant, said in a Commons debate last year that an associate of Rupert Murdoch had warned him that campaigning on hacking would “not be forgotten”.
Bryant said he intended to detail all the threats he had received from News International and News Corp when he gives his evidence to the Leveson inquiry. “News Corp always worked a double pincer, offering fear and favour. Intimidation was relatively widespread but mostly aimed at people who were the most exposed such as those on the culture, media and sport committee.”
Mosley told the Independent that he was aware of two other cases in which News International had brought undue influence to bear on MPs.
In 2011, News International executives instructed journalists to scrutinise the lives of the MPs of the culture, media and sport select committee. Private detectives were hired to tail Watson.
Shortly after the appearance of the Murdochs before the select committee in July 2011, committee member and Conservative MP Louise Mensch said she was emailed by a journalist called David Jones threatening to expose past misdeeds including taking drugs. The email was copied to the Conservative chairman and the Conservative chief whip. Mensch then issued a statement to the media confessing to the accusations and concluding: “I have not the slightest intention of being deterred from asking how far the culture of hacking and blagging extended in Fleet Street.”
The true identity of David Jones was never established but colleagues on the select committee say that Mensch has kept a low profile on the subject of News International and phone hacking ever since.