Rupert Murdoch, left and Tom Watson, the British politician
Rupert Murdoch titles account for about 60% of Australia's national newspaper readership, it is believed

Labour MP Tom Watson flew in to Australia to face an unusually hostile reception after taking his personal crusade against Rupert Murdoch to the tycoon's home turf.

Watson, who stood down from the shadow cabinet last month, announced he was boarding a flight to Sydney after a Murdoch-owned title made a typically partisan intervention on the eve of Australia's general elections.

The newspaper published a front-page headline entreating voters to "kick this mob out", in a reference to the incumbent administration of the Labor Party's Kevin Rudd in Australia.

Watson posted a Twitter update expressing his outrage and explaining his decision to fly to Australia.

"That @dailytelegraph front page did it. Sorting flights and clearing my diary," he said, referring to yesterday's Australian Daily Telegraph splash featuring Mr Rudd as Colonel Klink, the commander of the prisoner of war camp in the US sitcom Hogan's Heroes.

Murdoch's News Corp Australia has been at war with Rudd's government, with the Daily Telegraph in particular lending staunch backing to the Liberal-National coalition led by Tony Abbott.

Rudd angrily hit out at what he called Murdoch's "70% ownership" of the Australian press, and warned that the tycoon's ulterior motive lay in opposition to the National Broadcasting Network, which threatened his own pay-TV company Foxtel.

Watson told the Guardian: "I'm coming out there to ask some serious questions about whether Rupert Murdoch has learned the lesson of the Leveson inquiry in the United Kingdom.

"Looking at the headlines in some of his newspapers, it seems to me he has learned nothing from the scandal."

But Watson may have bitten off more than he can chew.

Reaction in the Australian press, where Murdoch's titles account for 59% of daily newspaper readership, was notable for its animosity. Commentators made repeated reference to Watson's weight, and pointed gleefully to his maximum expenses claim of £4,800 in a single year on food.

Writing in the Australian, also owned by Murdoch, columnist Ben Packham declared: "It's pretty selfless of Watson, all things considered."

Packham quoted at length an article in the UK regional Birmingham Mail from 26 August last year, which broke the news that "Tom Watson has found new love - four months after announcing that his marriage had ended."

The Birmingham Mail article continued: "Mr Watson, Labour MP for West Bromwich East, declared that he had separated from his wife, Siobhan, in April.

"The couple, who had been married for 11 years, have two children. Siobhan was also his constituency secretary ... Mr Watson said the 'pressures' of taking on Rupert Murdoch's newspapers were responsible for his marriage break-up."

Readers' reactions were even more vitriolic.

Among the least unkind responses to Watson's arrival, on the Australian site were the following:

"Is his visit to Australia being sponsored, or at least warmly welcomed, by McDonald's?"

And: "Please, bring him on. Just like to know who'll be paying for the row of seats he'll occupy."

If he survives his stay, Watson will return to the UK by 9 September, when he plans to attend the trials of former News Corp executives Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson.