Mail on Sunday pays out to Labour MP for smear claims

Labour MP Tom Watson today accepted substantial undisclosed libel damages from the Mail on Sunday.

Watson, who represents West Bromwich East, brought high court proceedings over a story which claimed he was not only copied into emails between former Downing Street press adviser Damian McBride and activist Derek Draper but “encouraged” them.

His solicitor, Claire Gill, told Mr Justice Eady that the false allegations, compounded by repeated suggestions in subsequent articles in the Daily Mail that his denial of any involvement was open to question, had caused Watson “acute distress, humiliation and embarrassment”.

“Not only was his political career put in jeopardy, but he and his family were exposed to public condemnation and ridicule,” she said.

The story referred to the resignation of McBride following the revelation that he had sent emails to Draper which were reported to have made serious and false allegations about the private lives of a number of Conservative MPs.

Gill added that the article’s author stated that he understood all the emails were copied to Watson and the MP encouraged it.

She told the judge: “These allegations are entirely untrue. In fact, the claimant was not copied in on any of the emails between Mr McBride and Mr Draper.”

As soon as Watson was aware he had been named as a recipient, he issued a press release making it clear the first he knew of the matter was when the emails were first drawn to the attention of Downing Street by the media.

He also made clear that, far from encouraging the emails, he regarded them as “completely inappropriate”.

Adam Cannon, solicitor for Associated Newspapers, which has agreed to pay substantial damages and Watson’s legal costs, unreservedly withdrew the allegations and apologised.

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