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Tom Watson warns of ‘unfinished business’ over press regulation

Tom Watson MP last night delivered the 2nd Annual Leveson lecture for the Hacked Off campaign in central London.

In his speech, Tom Watson focuses on the corrupting power of the British press, accusing them of operating ‘like a Mafia’ intimidating, bullying and being able to ‘fix’ any legislation that affected them.

He argues that there is “unfinished business” over press regulation and will attack the new press regulator, IPSO, that has succeeded the Press Complaints Commission describing the regulator as merely “business as usual”.

Tom also said that Leveson Part 2 – the investigation into the conduct of the police in regards the press and establishing the truth as to what happened during the hacking scandal – is “vital” and should begin as soon as the criminal cases have finished.

Looking ahead to the general election he called on political parties to “accept the John Major challenge” and take Sir John Major’s advice to see through press reform by making commitments in manifestos. He warned political parties “the public will judge them harshly” if they fail to commit to implementing Leveson in their manifestos.

The audience for this public lecture included journalists, politicians and victims of press abuse, said Hacked Off.

Joan Smith, executive director of Hacked Off said: “Two years on from the Leveson Report it is vital that we again draw attention to the unfinished business of reform of press regulation. It is great to have Tom Watson, who has campaigned so hard on this issue, giving our lecture tonight and calling for all political parties to commit to deliver on Leveson in their manifestos.”

In his speech, Tom Watson said: "They [the press] have operated like a Mafia, intimidating here, bribing there, terminating careers when it suits them and rewarding their most loyal toadies. For years they could ‘fix’ any legislation that affected them, in a way that no other industry could. But it didn’t stop there. Their influence was so great that it became impossible to know who was really running the country.”

On Leveson, he said: "It’s unfinished business, because this little group of greedy, cruel men have raised two fingers to Leveson, to Parliament, to their victims and to the public. They don’t want fairness, they don’t want change. No catalogue of the wrongdoing they have overseen would be long enough to shame them. They want business as usual, so they want IPSO."

On Leveson part 2 on the role of the police, he said: "It is vital that Leveson 2 does begin as soon as the criminal cases are over. It is vital because the papers and others claim the police somehow got off lightly in Leveson. That is because they were not the main subject of investigation of Part 1.”

On the general election and manifesto commitments, he added: “A manifesto commitment is vital. Voters, and also the victims of press abuse, have to know where the parties stand on this – before the election. Nothing less is right or just.

"We have had a rare all-party consensus on this. Now all the parties must be open and clear. Do they still believe in the Leveson recommendations and the Charter, or are they quietly getting back into bed with the editors and proprietors? The public has a right to know.

“John Major said at the Leveson Inquiry, when commenting of the serial failures of previous attempts at effective independent self-regulation. “It is politicians who are in the Last Chance Saloon”.

I want my party to accept the 'John Major challenge'. That is why I will be campaigning for a commitment in the Labour manifesto to see Leveson through. I hope the other parties will match it, and if they don’t I know the public will judge them harshly, because they will be letting down the victims they promised to protect, and whom they have a duty to protect."