Journalists who stalked hacking MP still employed by Murdoch – Press – Media – The Independent
Mr Mahmood himself put it less delicately in the message on 26 September 2009: Mr Watson was “shagging” a female politician, he claimed. According to an informant of the “Fake Sheikh”, Mr Watson and the woman were staying at separate hotels at the Labour Party conference in Brighton and he was “creeping into her hotel”. He described the MP as a “close lackey” of the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown and noted he was “anti-Blair”.Within minutes of being copied into the email, Assistant Editor Ian Edmondson acknowledged it was a “great story”. The News of the World had long exposed “secret affairs”, but this target was particularly juicy because Mr Watson was an enemy of News International. He excitedly told Mr Mahmood: “You might want to check his recent cutts [cuttings], v interesting!”That summer Mr Watson – who had been investigating phone hacking at the News of the World – had been vexing Rupert Murdochs newspaper group. On 30 June, The Sun had been forced to admit it had falsely claimed that he had been privy to a plot to smear leading Conservatives. And in July, he had elicited the information that Mr Murdochs son, James, had authorised a secret payment to a hacking victim, Gordon Taylor, head of the Professional Footballers Association.Behind the scenes, there was another spicy element: News Internationals papers were about to switch their endorsement from Mr Browns Labour Party to David Camerons Conservatives.Within 10 minutes of receiving the email, Mr Mellor and Mr Edmondson who was subsequently arrested on suspicion of phone hacking discussed putting Mr Watson under surveillance. With their agreement, Mr Mahmood commissioned a former policeman, Derek Webb, to tail him. Everything was in place for a front-page scoop, except one thing – the story was not true. Mr Watson was not and never had been having an affair with the politician.