Tom Watson MP has sent a letter to the Society of Editors accusing BBC News political editor Nick Robinson of "kissing Andy Coulson’s arse".
Watson, who last week compared News International to the Mafia, made the jibe in a letter explaining why he could not attend the conference.
The letter, published on his website, says: "I am very sorry that I will not be able to attend the conference today.
Roy Greenslade has just revealed that six months ago, members of the DCMS Select Committee were the targets of covert surveillance by private investigators and journalists working for News International. This revelation became the third occasion that I know of in which I was a target of covert surveillance News Corp in the UK.
Under the circumstances, I have to spend the day seeking advice from the Speaker and discussing the matter with fellow members of the DCMS Select Committee as to our legal and constitutional position.
I am very disappointed not to be with you. Had I been there, I would have made the case for editors getting on the front foot and coming up with their own reform position – one that protects the noble tradition of robust, no-nonsense journalism that typifies the British newspaper industry but that ensures editors put matters right when they get them wrong.
I would also have taken a pot shot at Lord Patten’s lugubrious speech justifying the BBC not being able to adequately investigate the phonehacking scandal. The DCMS committee published a report that found Rupert Murdoch’s executives guilty of “collective amnesia”. We found it “inconceivable” that others were not involved in hacking. Where was Nick Robinson, the most powerful political editor in the land, during this period? Kissing Andy Coulson’s arse.
Please feel free read out the contents of this letter to delegates with my sincere apologies for not being there."