Diary: Watson: Britain's Woodward

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The Independent Online

The events of recent days have ensured the career of Labour backbencher Tom Watson is likely to prove rather more memorable than most would have imagined.

Prior to taking the fight to News International, Watson's name remained a dirty word in the memories of many in the party's Blairite wing, who predictably never forgave the Brown loyalist for fronting the 2006 coup attempt against their man Tony. While once ungenerously hailed the parliamentary party's "Top Toadie", the convivial West Bromwich East MP, pictured, was handed relatively modest posts in the last Labour government. Having been obliged to quit as a junior Defence Minister after calling on Blair to resign, Watson eventually returned under Gordon Brown as Parliamentary Secretary at the Cabinet Office. Friends are divided when asked whether Watson now has his eye on a plum frontbench post – while some suggest he's more comfortable exerting his influence from the backbenches, others are confident he wouldn't be able to resist "making the step up", particularly with his stock currently so high. In the meantime, I'm reminded there could be another dilemma on the horizon.

"Let's face it, Tom and Chris Bryant have become our very own Woodward and Bernstein after all this," gushed one party official yesterday. "The big question now is, who gets to play them when the film is made?" Possibly not something Mr Watson ever thought people would be worrying about.

* As I suspected, my kind offer this week of a psychiatrist's chair for battle-scarred veterans from the News of the World has been eagerly snapped up. Today there comes a helpfully harrowing tale from one former reporter evidently still struggling to come to terms with an unfortunate episode dating back more than 30 years, involving News International's now-departed legal manager Tom Crone.

In the days before both men came under Great Uncle Rupert's protective wing, the said hack – let's just refer to him as "the patient" – recalls being in the Swan pub in Wimbledon when he claims to have had a difference of opinion with young Crone, then in his late teens. "Tom and his friends were from the comprehensive Wimbledon College, then run by Catholic priests," he sniffs. "They objected to me and my posh public-school mates." With mounting emotion, said patient goes on to insist that regrettable violence ensued – or as he more poetically puts it: "I got the shit kicked out of me."

While this could of course all have been a case of mistaken identity (News International seemed too preoccupied to bother with my enquiry regarding the matter yesterday), I should warn Mr Crone that I cannot be held responsible should this now increasingly unhinged individual seek messy revenge. Still, when you consider his former colleague Rebekah Brooks is famously said to have once given her ex-husband, EastEnders hard man Grant Mitchell, a right old kicking, Crone's far-off days as a bar-room brawler seem pretty tame by comparison.

* When News Corp confirmed it was abandoning its bid for BSkyB yesterday, Newsnight's economics editor, Paul Mason, couldn't resist indulging us with a spot of cinematic symbolism. Just moments after the announcement, Mason's followers on Twitter were treated to the dramatic footage from the final part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which sees the evil Sauron's empire go up in flames. What could he have been getting at?

* We can only imagine how chuffed marketing chiefs over at sports giant Adidas must have been yesterday, courtesy of Great Uncle Rupert being pictured in several national newspapers proudly clad in one of its spanking new tracksuits as he wheezed his way through a workout in Hyde Park. That's product placement for you!

* Liberal Democrat veteran Simon Hughes was among those keen to announce that Great Uncle Rupert's British media empire was living on borrowed time yesterday. Colleagues point out that the deputy leader's relationship with News International has been an eventful one – notably back in 2006 when he was curiously obliged suddenly to come out of the closet exclusively to The Sun, not a publication you would imagine he would willingly turn to when wanting to make such an admission. Indeed, without any hint of behind-the-scenes coercion, Hughes suddenly saw fit to apologise for being "overly defensive" about his sexual past.

* Following my report yesterday that Great Uncle Rupert might lose his papal knighthood, the excitable conspiracy theorists among you have frankly gone into overdrive. I should clarify there is no evidence that the Pope, St Peter or God for that matter have been the victims of phone hacking. (No evidence as yet, anyway.)

highstreetken@independent.co.uk

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