Now in his stunning memoirs entitled Inside Out Watt provides the ultimate insider expose’: a no holds-barred account of the spectacular decline of the most effective party political machine of modern times.
CARDIFF EAST: How would you explain what ‘Donorgate’ was three years on and your role in it?
PETER WATT: Over a series of years a number of donors gave money to the Party that the Party believed that they were entitled to give and that the Party was entitled to receive. It was all declared and reported to the Electoral Commission. But it then transpired that the money was given on behalf of someone else – that meant that we had not reported the donations properly. The money was ‘clean’ money that the Party was certainly allowed to receive; the person whose money it actually was, was a good man who only wanted to benefit the Party. No one deliberately deceived anyone, no one personally benefitted – but it looked bad. I was the Party Official legally responsible for declaring donations and I took the can. Whether I needed to be condemned as a criminal by the Party Leader and others as a result is a moot point – well I’m pretty clear that I didn’t need to be! It became a political scandal that was threatening to draw in the Leader and Deputy Leader – I became a useful lightening rod.
CARDIFF EAST: Many people thought that you went quickly and quietly to avoid damaging the party – was that your intention?
PETER WATT: I was told by Party officials that I had definitely broken the law and was going to be prosecuted. This wasn’t true, but at the time, under some pretty intense pressure, I believed it. I was a Party loyalist and of course wanted to do what was best for the Party and so I went quickly. I then kept my silence for 18 months.
CARDIFF EAST: What was it like to be face police interrogation over ‘Cash for Honours’ and ‘Donorgate’? Your book often reads like a John Grisham legal thriller!
PETER WATT: Pretty strange! I knew that I had not broken the law but the Police had a job to do and they assumed that I had. I told the truth and waited for the investigations to finish. Both interviews were long, taking several hours. Of course you know what it’s like – if the Police ask you a question you feel guilty!! It was very stressful and quite lonely – people assume there’s no smoke without fire. In the middle of the night I worried about miscarriages of justice and going to prison.
CARDIFF EAST: What are your hopes for the Labour Party now that many of the people who were active when you were in post have gone or are going?
PETER WATT: Well there are still a lot of them there! I hope that the Party is able to refresh itself for very changed times in the same way that it did between 1987 and winning in 1997. But that it can do it over a much shorter time frame…
CARDIFF EAST: What have you done since resigning, and what are your ambitions?
PETER WATT: I spent a few months concentrating on my family – Vilma my wife was pregnant when I was forced to resign in November 2007. We have five children aged 2- 19 and we foster so we are pretty busy. I began working for The Campaign Company in 2008 and I am now the Chief Executive which I really enjoy. My main ambition is to maintain a healthy work-life balance – something I lost at times whilst working for the Party.
CARDIFF EAST: How do you relax?
PETER WATT: I am rubbish at this. I love family stuff but I also really need to be busy. I love watching sport – particularly cricket and football (Liverpool in particular) and I read.
CARDIFF EAST: Do you plan to re-enter active politics ?
PETER WATT: Definitely not – but then again…
Peter Watt’s memoirs INSIDE OUT can be purchased at Amazon here.
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