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Former Watford MP Claire Ward claims News of the World contributed to the loss of her baby
Watford’s former MP Claire Ward has claimed press intrusion into her personal life by The News of the World may have contributed to the death of her unborn baby in 2005.
Mrs Ward served as Labour MP for the town from 1997 until she was voted out in the 2010 General Election, she also served as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice.
In a written submission to the Leveson Inquiry into media ethics, Mrs Ward claims she was contacted by a reporter from the now defunct Sunday tabloid in December 2004 while on holiday in Riga.
She alleges the reporter made unspecified allegations which she describes as “entirely false” and says the story was never published after her solicitors obtained an agreement from the paper.
She goes on to say: “I was pregnant at this time and this stress whilst we were away had an impact on my health.
“I was under enormous stress from this threat. Following the general election in May 2005, my baby was stillborn.
“I cannot help but think that the stress I was placed under in the early stages of my pregnancy, particularly during my stay in Riga, may have contributed to the eventual loss of my baby.”
Mrs Ward became the country’s youngest female MP in Parliament when she was elected in 1997 aged 24 and was subjected to “false and untrue reporting” by national publications running a “misogynistic agenda”.
She also recounts being threatened by another senior journalist at the News International tabloid in February2001.
The reporter, who is not identified in papers, contacted her to say the paper intended to run a story alleging she had behaved inappropriately with a Royal Marines captain nicknamed “Captain Hunk” during a trip to Kosovo.
When she denied the claims she said the journalist became aggressive and quoted him as saying "I brought Robin Cook down and I am going to bring you down”.
"He told me that if I challenged the story he would make things much worse for me. I repeated my denials and ended the phone call and went to attend a constituency engagement," she added.
After her repeated denials, Mrs Ward was contacted by then-editor Rebekah Wade (nee Brooks) who agreed to make some changes and give the article a lower profile than initially intended but Mrs Ward said she was left feeling that was the best she could hope for.
Reflecting on media ethics as a whole, the former MP said she did not object to the media’s coverage of political stories but felt confronted by an “intense and repeated interest” in her personal life.
I believe that we have to have a much clearer set of rules for the conduct of the media.
Mrs Ward concludes: “I believe that we have to have a much clearer set of rules for the conduct of the media.
“For a politician, seeking public confidence, this power to destroy is the most dangerous of any that the media have.
“During my 13 years in Parliament, News International in particular held an iron grip over our politics.
“In all the difficulties that I had, I knew that I could not rely upon my party or my colleagues to take on News International and I was in no position to do so.”
Since leaving office Mrs Ward has become a director at the International Pharmacy Federation.