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Here Jess Phillips shows us how to harness the power of our voices and USE THE FEAR LIKE A FORCE.


‘I would definitely do it again. Actually, I’d do it

with more gusto than I did before. When you first

start on these journeys, you have no idea you’ll end

up being followed by private investigators working

for Rupert Murdoch. I was very, very frightened for

a long time.


‘People around me were frightened. People

suffered emotionally because of that campaign,

people I loved. That all goes with time, you have to

end up finding forgiveness, otherwise you just eat

yourself. But I would definitely do it again.’


These are the words of my friend and colleague Tom

Watson, the Labour MP. Tom found himself on the end

of one of the worst campaigns of intimidation I have

ever heard about when he started to uncover the scandal

that journalists were routinely hacking people’s phones

to get stories. ‘I met a woman, who was described as Ms

X, who was a victim of a sexual crime and the alleged

abuser was in the public eye, and she came to see me and

said, “I feel doubly violated by this. This guy did this to

me and then the News of the World hacked my phone

and my parents’ phone and tried to write a story about

it.” Once someone sits in a room with you like that you

can’t walk away from that; she didn’t have a voice and I

did have a voice.’


Tom explained the sort of pressure he faced when he

looked into the scandal. ‘They commissioned a former

Metropolitan Police officer trained in covert surveillance to

follow me. The undercover journalist Mazher Mahmood

was tasked to go through all my private life. I was libelled

on the front page of the Sun, accused of being part of a

plot to besmirch the characters of families of Tory MPs.

It was completely untrue. I subsequently won the case.

They exerted political pressure on people in Number

10 Downing Street to try and get me to withdraw the

libel case. Then, when I ended up on the committee that

was looking into the press, I was followed by private

investigators. I was insulted by their editors. They put

round rumours that I was an alcoholic who needed to

go to the Betty Ford Clinic. They said that I was on a

mad vendetta. They denied outright that there was any

criminal wrongdoing going on at News International.

They used their network of powerful people to talk to

me softly, softly, or tell me it wasn’t in my interest to

keep looking into it. So, essentially, they threatened me.

People often presented trying to stop me as kindness,

doing me a favour, they were trying to sort out what they

thought was a political problem with a very powerful

entity. It was very, very lonely. There are people in the

public eye who were frightened to be in the same room

as me, in case they’d be seen as an associate in the eyes of

the News International people, one who ran for the leadership

of the Labour Party. There were very close friends

who suggested some form of media management, who

were desperately worried about it, and suggested I was

having some form of nervous breakdown rather than just

being very, very upset at illegal activity, and intimidating



What Tom realized and still realizes is that if powerful

people are scaring you and intimidating you, it probably

means that you are on to something. It should be used as

an indicator that you should keep going – not that you

should stop.


So often when we face initial fear of speaking up we

must dig deep and use that fear as the force that drives us.

Focus on the clear outcome of what you are trying to do,

what you are trying to uncover. Without a proper pathway

or idea of what you are aiming for, what good looks

like, the fear will inevitably sweep you aside. If you know

something can be better, and you can visualize the end

and what it would feel like to win, the fear of what you are

doing in fact becomes a very powerful force. People say it

is the hope that kills you in the end. I’m not sure that is

true, but it can lead to a lot of high expectations and

disappointment. I have always found that the combination

of hope and fear is like rocket fuel to keep me going.


More on how to speak up and make a difference in Jess Phillips’ Truth to Power