Gordon Brown yesterday accused The Sun of carrying out a vendetta against him during his last years as Prime Minister. He also vigorously defended his record on media regulation, rounding on the tabloid – and Rupert Murdoch in particular – over a series of attacks.
Mr Brown was angriest when discussing The Sun's reporting of his son's genetic disorder – and the newspaper's treatment of him over the Afghan war. In November 2006, the paper splashed on an exclusive that four-month-old Fraser had cystic fibrosis. Last summer, it insisted the story had come from a member of the public. Mr Brown produced a letter from Fife NHS Trust saying it was now "highly likely" that a staff member had spoken about the story without authorisation, although there was no evidence medical records had been inappropriately accessed.
Mr Brown vehemently denied The Sun's claim that he approved the story. "I don't think there is any parent in the land who would have made the choice that we are told we made," he said. The inquiry's lawyer, Robert Jay QC, pointed out that Mr Brown's wife, Sarah, had organised a birthday party for The Sun's then editor Rebekah Brooks at Chequers in June 2008, after the story was published. Mr Brown said his wife was a "forgiving" person. News International said: "We welcome the fact that NHS Fife have said that they believe there was 'no inappropriate access' to the medical records of Gordon Brown's son."
The former Prime Minister also strongly denied having "declared war" on News Corp after The Sun switched its support to the Tories in September 2009, and denied ordering his spin doctors to drip poison into the ears of journalists about his opponents. Mr Brown accused James Murdoch of aggressively pursuing a commercial agenda with politicians. He said News Corp wanted to "neuter" the BBC by cutting the licence fee, shrinking Ofcom and ensuring more sports rights went to BSkyB.
He also said the Government came under pressure from News International to sack Tom Watson, the Brown ally pursuing phone hacking at the News of the World. Mr Brown said: "I remember telling him on a telephone call that my wife had received a text from Rebekah Brooks questioning his continuation as a minister."