The parliamentary committee investigating phone hacking laughed aloud when Labour MP Tom Watson announced on Wednesday that he'd bought News Corp. shares so that he could speak at the company's annual general meeting on October 21 in Los Angeles. But Watson wasn't kidding: he tweeted soon thereafter, "Bags packed. Dollars in wallet. Passport safe. Hollywood here I come."
If you've watched any of the parliamentary hearings, you know that Tom Watson has actively positioned himself as News Corp.'s number one enemy in the phone hacking investigation. Watson was the one asking Rupert and James Murdoch the hardest questions when they appeared before Parliament's Culture Committee in July, and presumably those are the same types of questions he'll ask News Corp.'s shareholders and executives at the AGM on Friday. It's a natural extension of Watson's lauded efforts to bring the company's misbehavior to light for the past two years. Watson was one of the first members of parliament to start acting tough on News Corp. after Murdoch's The Sun falsely implicated him in a political scandal in 2009. (Rebekah Brooks was The Sun's editor at the time.) Watson took legal action against the company, won and was paid damages. Ever since, he's been aggressive about holding the company accountable.
Watson says that News Corp. has tried to silence him a number of times. In a recent profile of the Labour MP, Watson explained:
But just two days after joining [the culture committee], the Guardian newspaper put phone hacking back on the agenda and the committee decided to investigate it--once again thrusting Mr Watson into the spotlight.
"The first thing News International did was try to have me removed from the committee," he claims. "I realised then that these people were never going away. Something had clearly gone wrong with newspapers and somebody had to get to the truth. There weren't many MPs who were prepared to do that for fear of being targeted, so I decided I had to do it. People then started coming to me--whistleblowers and victims--and I felt I had a responsibility towards them--I couldn't walk away."
Watson has also publicly said that New Corp.'s illegal actions extend well beyond phone hacking. "I think we're probably only about halfway through the number of revelations," he told The Guardian in August. "I'm pretty certain there will be quite detailed stuff on other uses of covert surveillance. I suspect that emails will be the next scandal. And devices that track people moving around. That's just starting to come out."
Based on what Watson has said about his plans to speak to his now fellow shareholders at the News Corp. AGM, some of these revelations might come to light on Friday. "I want to make sure the shareholders are fully informed about the things their company is doing in the U.K.," he said. "For an organization that believes in freedom of speech, it would be pretty extraordinary if they tried to stop me being heard."