Labour MP accepts libel damages from Sun

Labour MP Tom Watson today accepted substantial libel damages over false claims that he was part of a smear campaign against the Conservatives.

Watson, who has represented West Bromwich East since 2001, sued The Sun over two stories which appeared in April.

His solicitor, Lucy Middleton, told Justice Tugendhat at the High Court that the first story alleged that Watson was, alongside Damian McBride and Derek Draper, among the “motley crew” who dreamed up “grisly lies” about David Cameron and George Osborne, and that his denial of involvement was a lie.

The second, accompanied by a prominent photo of Watson, alleged he was behind the plot to smear the Tories by spreading obscene lies about them, and again claimed he had shamelessly lied about his involvement.

Middleton said News Group Newspapers, publisher of The Sun, now accepted that the allegations, which caused Watson acute distress, humiliation and embarrassment and damaged his reputation, were entirely untrue.

She said: “The claimant found the articles deeply offensive and the allegation in the second publication that the claimant was involved in smearing David Cameron knowing that Samantha Cameron was grieving over the tragic death of her son caused him particular distress.”

Solicitor Patrick Callaghan, for the newspaper, which has agreed to pay Watson substantial damages and his costs, unreservedly withdrew the allegations and apologised.

Watson has maintained he had no knowledge of a plan to set up a website called Red Rag that would specialise in political gossip.

He also previously accused News Group of trying to interfere with the work of the culture, media and sport select committee, on which he sits, after Tom Crone, the News Group lawyer, wrote to the committee complaining about Watson’s presence while representatives from News Group were giving evidence in July over allegations of phone-tapping.

Watson, who made a declaration during that evidence session admitting he was in a dispute with the Sun, called that move “improper”.

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