David Cameron piles pressure on Tom Watson over Leon Brittan comments

PM says deputy Labour leder 'has questions to answer' after he repeated comment from an alleged sex abuse survivor that Lord Brittan was "close to evil"

Tom Watson accepted on Friday that he should not have repeated the comment in public
Tom Watson accepted on Friday that he should not have repeated the comment in public

David Cameron has piled the pressure on Labour's deputy leader Tom Watson, saying he "has a lot of questions to answer" over comments he made about sex abuse allegations against Lord Brittan, the former Conservative Home Secretary.

Mr Watson accepted on Friday that he should not have repeated a comment from an alleged sex abuse survivor that the late peer was "close to evil" but today the Prime Minister has said he must go further and "examine his conscience".

Lord Brittan's brother has called on Mr Watson to apologise for repeating the comment, but the West Bromwich East MP insisted it was his "duty" to pass on testimony from those claiming to have been abused to Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

Mr Watson came under pressure to issue an apology after a Scotland Yard officer wrote to Lord Brittan's widow last week apologising for failing to tell the family before his death in January that he had been cleared of allegations that he raped a 19-year-old woman in 1967.

Asked on Monday whether he believed Mr Watson should apologise too, Mr Cameron said: "It's clear I think that he's got a lot of questions to answer and the House of Commons Select Committees are quite rightly going to ask him some questions so I'm sure he should answer those questions and examine his conscience about whether he's said enough so far."

In a blog post for the Huffington Post on Friday Mr Watson came close to apologising, saying he was sorry for the "distress Leon Brittan's family experienced as they grieved for him" as a result of the claims.

He wrote: "As the tributes flowed in from his lifelong friends I felt for those people who claimed he abused them.

“When the death of Leon Brittan was announced, I worried that the justice system would no longer take its course and that the allegations would never be thoroughly investigated.

"As the tributes flowed in from his lifelong friends I felt for those people who claimed he abused them. I repeated a line used by one of the alleged survivors, who said: ‘He is as close to evil as any human being could get’. I shouldn’t have repeated such an emotive phrase.”

Conservative MP Nicholas Soames said Mr Watson should make a Commons statement to apologise. He said it would be "disgraceful were Tom Watson not to make a personal statement to the House to apologise for the dreadful accusations he made".

Mr Watson could face a grilling by the Home Affairs Committee over his efforts to re-examine unproven claims that the Conservative peer Leon Brittan raped a woman.

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