Tom Watson backed fantasist Carl Beech yet became boss of UK Music

How CAN Tom Watson cling on? He supported sick fantasist Carl Beech – yet became boss of UK Music, some of whose members’ lives were ruined in VIP witch-hunts and now 12 industry giants are demanding answers

  • His role at UK Music has triggered a backlash, with insiders warning of a split
  • In a letter to UK Music, musicians ask if he has qualifications they are unaware of
  • An interview, where he admitted ‘mistakes were made’, has intensified anger

As ever, former MP Tom Watson is plumped up with quiet self-righteousness. 

The man once renowned as an ‘operator’, schooled in the bruising business of party discipline, has been ignoring the chorus of disapproval over his new job as one of the music industry’s most powerful figures.

Instead, he has been polishing his right-on credentials with social media posts about upcoming ‘virtual’ gigs and re-tweeting sentimental observations about his home county of Worcestershire.

Tom Watson’s appointment as chairman of UK Music, an umbrella group that represents record labels, has triggered an extraordinary backlash, with insiders warning of a shattering split

A shame he hasn’t looked a little farther down some of the threads. Beneath one detailing ‘the interview everyone is talking about’ — in which the former Labour deputy leader glossed over his links to the VIP abuse fantasist known as Nick — there is one uncompromising pronouncement: ‘Tom Watson has no place in public life and will always be reviled as a snake and a shill,’ declares a reader of the highbrow trade magazine Music Week.

But, as a Daily Mail investigation discovered, this is the least of Mr Watson’s problems. 

His appointment as chairman of UK Music, an umbrella group that represents record labels, composers, publishers and promoters, has triggered an extraordinary backlash, with insiders warning of a shattering split.

The interview, which carried his mealy-mouthed ‘mistakes were made’ admission, has served only to intensify industry anger.

We can reveal that a string of influential figures from every part of the music world have come forward to call for an inquiry into how and on what basis Watson was given the job, and who approved it. 

They are also demanding evidence of the skills that qualify him for such a key post, given that until now he has spent almost all his working life as a trade union officer, Labour Party official or MP. 

In a letter to one of the top member bodies of UK Music, which has been leaked to the Mail, the musicians ask if the advertisement for the role was misleading or whether ‘Mr Watson has qualifications of which we are unaware’.

In a letter to UK Music, which has been leaked to the Mail, the musicians ask if ‘Mr Watson has qualifications of which we are unaware’. He is pictured at Glastonbury Festival last year

Either way, they challenge the selection panel to produce evidence of his experience ‘of the commercial music environment’.

The devastating letter to PRS For Music — the performing rights society that collects royalties for 140,000 composers, songwriters and publishers — argues there is every chance that 53-year-old Watson’s appointment ‘might bring the UK music industry into disrepute’.

As it is signed by 12 internationally known singers and songwriters, it cannot be ignored.

But this is by no means the only problem piling up at the door of UK Music. We can disclose two other significant interventions.

Guitarist Graham Gouldman, who had a string of Top Ten hits with 1970s band 10cc, told us he was ‘joining the chorus of voices opposing Tom Watson’. He warned that the ex-MP’s position could be damaging to key music business gatherings.

Citing Watson’s role in highlighting the claims of Carl Beech, the paedophile who made false allegations of child abuse against retired former politicians and senior military figures, Mr Gouldman said: ‘Not only does he not have the necessary qualifications for the job, but the Carl Beech affair will always tarnish his name.

Michael Dugher, former Labour politician and ex-chief executive of UK Music, photographed at their offices in Whitehall

‘Notwithstanding the secrecy surrounding the process of his getting the job, imagine the atmosphere he’ll create by being present at the many industry events he would be expected to attend, such as the Ivor Novello Awards [and] the Brits.’

His words were echoed by a distinguished voice from a very different musical genre, the classical composer and broadcaster Robert Matthew-Walker, who told us Watson was ‘manifestly unfit’ for the job he had been appointed to.

‘People do not need reminding of Watson’s character — his behaviour over the past ten years is in the public record,’ said Mr Matthew-Walker. 

‘Only a profoundly ignorant, self-centred individual could have acted as he did.

‘Watson knew perfectly well what he was doing and why: in my view his statements were not “mistakes”, they were deliberately malicious.

‘A man who permitted himself to be taken in by a fantasist and sex offender to the extent of spreading downright lies about blameless men is manifestly unfit to hold any office.’

Matthew-Walker, who launched the career of the virtuoso flautist Sir James Galway and who has produced more than 130 albums, added: ‘Self-respecting musicians — be they pop, rock, jazz, classical, folk — will be horrified to learn that such a downright incompetent individual as Watson is appointed to head one of the major organisations representing them.’

Tom Watson highlighted claims of fantasist Carl Beech, the paedophile who made false allegations of child abuse against retired former politicians and senior military figures

UK Music seems to have grievously miscalculated key industry opinion. The British Phonographic Industry, whose members account for 85 per cent of music sales, opposed the appointment from the outset.

And, as we have seen, PRS is under pressure to explain its apparent support of the Watson candidacy.

The 12 signatories to the letter describe themselves as writer-members and say they are concerned about ‘the wisdom and the legitimacy’ of the appointment.

THE PANEL WHO SAID YES 

David Martin, 40, general manager of Featured Artists Coalition. Worked in the Department of Health and Social Care under both Labour and Conservative administrations.

Crispin Hunt, 52, vocalist with alternative rock band Longpigs, now a songwriter and producer who has worked with Lana del Ray and Ellie Goulding. Hunt is the stepson of former Labour minister Mark Fisher. Delighted at Watson’s appointment, describing him as the ‘right person for the moment and beyond. Congratulations’.

Paul Pacifico, 44, head of the Association of Independent Music. Last week, he re-tweeted Watson’s idea for a ‘Marshall Amp’ plan to revive the music industry post-Covid. Welcomed his appointment.

Cameron Craig, 56, Grammy award-winning producer who has worked with Adele, Amy Winehouse, Grace Jones, Tina Turner and Annie Lennox. Tweeted support for Watson when he was appointed.

Annabella Coldrick, 43, chief executive of the Music Managers Forum. Coldrick featured in a picture with Paul Pacifico and Cameron Craig which was posted on Facebook in February 2017, when UK Music held a dinner for the Labour Party front bench, including Watson.

Peter Leathem, 54, chief executive of Phonographic Performance Ltd. Tweeted his congratulations to Watson on his new job.

Ged Doherty, 62, chairman of the British Phonographic Industry. He is said to have described the damage caused by Watson’s appointment as ‘equivalent to Momentum and the Labour Party’.

Horace Trubridge, 63, general secretary of the Musicians’ Union. Appeared in a Labour For A Public Vote video on YouTube.

Roberto Neri, 47, chair of the Music Publishers Association. Posted on Twitter his congratulations to Watson.

Andrea Martin, 60, chief executive of PRS For Music. No obvious links to either Watson or the Labour Party.

They are eminent in their fields — and they suggest there is enough publicly available information about the matter to bring the British music industry ‘into disrepute’.

They say that PRS, a venerable body founded in 1914, is now associated with an organisation chaired by someone ‘perceived by many as being divisive and controversial and unapologetic for the damage he has caused innocent public figures within and beyond the music industry’.

This is a reference to how Watson’s reckless use of parliamentary privilege helped create the poisonous atmosphere which also saw music legend Sir Cliff Richard and former Radio 1 DJ Paul Gambaccini investigated by police for separate unfounded sex allegations.

Their letter is addressed to PRS’s chief executive, Canadian-born Andrea Martin, a former head of data services for Royal Mail, who is one of ten directors that make up the board of UK Music (see panel above).

It suggests there are ‘reasonable grounds’ to believe that ‘due process’ was not followed and that Watson’s appointment was not conducted ‘in accordance with the principles of fairness’ or the advertised terms for applications.

The musicians are demanding that Ms Martin should answer a series of key questions:

  • Who was on the selection panel and did the PRS have a say in the appointment of its members?
  • How many candidates applied for the position, how many were interviewed and when?
  • Did the PRS board discuss the candidate and to what extent did Ms Martin confer with her fellow directors
  • Did she have any concerns in relation to Mr Watson’s reputation and how he justified his background in public life?

They are also asking whether Ms Martin has even met Tom Watson, amid claims that she was in lockdown in Canada at the time of the final interview.

Mystery still surrounds the whole appointment process. 

According to insiders, there were about 80 applications for the post, which was advertised with the statement: ‘Our successful candidate will have wide-ranging and relevant experience of the commercial music environment’.

One man who thought he had all the right credentials, Robert Wilson, a music entrepreneur with 40 years in the business and who received the MBE for services to the music industry, didn’t even make the shortlist.

A police watchdog also recently ordered an inquiry into why two abuse fantasists weren’t investigated after lying to support Carl Beech’s claims

He told us: ‘I would be most interested in UK Music’s process for their interview selection. They claim to be an inclusive organisation.’

He added: ‘I would be happy to assist any independent inquiry into how Mr Watson got the job.’

Another candidate, who asked to remain anonymous, said he had not even received an acknowledgement of his application.

‘I have been in the business for more than 30 years and I heard nothing,’ he told us.

UK Music has said all of its board members were involved in the appointment process and that the choice of Mr Watson was ‘widely welcomed’.

But neither PRS nor its chief executive has responded to our requests for a comment on the letter it has received from its members.

All signs are that the chorus of disapproval against Watson’s appointment will only grow in volume as time goes on.

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