Damage to Brown's eye raises questions about his future

And Prime Minister will have to repay some of his expenses claims, according to the BBC

Gordon Brown made clear yesterday he would continue as Prime Minister despite being told his eyesight could be affected by a new medical condition. Mr Brown, who is blind in his left eye after a teenage rugby injury, attended Moorfields Eye Hospital in central London on Friday after tests last month revealed he has two minor rips on the retina – light-sensitive tissue – of his right eye.

He was told about the rips after an annual check-up in his good eye. Experts yesterday said such tears can lead to a detached retina if not caught early enough and treated. Downing Street and doctors insisted there was "no deterioration" in his eyesight as a result of the tears.

Yet the development will fuel speculation that Mr Brown could be preparing the ground for an exit strategy from Downing Street after failing to turn around the polls, despite surviving the conference season without any major setbacks. However, a new opinion poll shows the Tories, on 45 per cent, have stretched their lead to 19 points. The ICM survey for the News of the World also suggested that voters preferred the Tories in almost every policy area, from law and order to schools, Afghanistan and tax.

It was also "highly likely" that Mr Brown would be asked to repay some of his expense claims, the BBC reported. The Prime Minister is among hundreds of MPs who may receive a letter this week from Sir Thomas Legg, the auditor investigating parliamentary allowances, requesting either further details or repayment.

Mr Brown's only noticably contentious expenses claim was that for cleaning services which involved him paying his brother Andrew £6,577.

News of Mr Brown's health problem would have brought fresh anguish for the Prime Minister, who in his conference speech last year spoke movingly of how NHS doctors fought to save the sight in his good eye after the rugby injury that resulted in a detached retina.

However, the disclosure raised questions over whether he had been completely open with the general public when being questioned about his health on BBC's Andrew Marr programme last month. Downing Street refused to deny the suggestion that the retinal tears were discovered by tests before the television interview took place on 27 September.

On the programme, Mr Brown told Marr: "Every year I have to check, as I did only a few days ago, that my eyesight is good. There has been absolutely no deterioration."

His words, with hindsight, appeared carefully chosen, because by then he would have started monthly check-ups as a result of the condition.

No 10 said yesterday: "This summer, Mr Brown had his annual eye check- up which was fine. Later, he had his retina checked. After examinations, surgeons found that the retina had two minor tears. However, as there has been no further deterioration and no change in his eyesight, they decided against further operations. Mr Brown visited Moorfields eye hospital yesterday as part of regular checks on his eyes, and this check was also fine.

"Were there to be any change, he would of course make a further statement." No 10 said yesterday that the Prime Minister had been "entirely consistent" because there had been no deterioration in his sight. Asked whether it would affect his ability to continue with the job, a Downing Street spokesman said: "Absolutely not."

In a book by the Sky News political editor, Adam Boulton, it was claimed that Tony Blair believes Mr Brown may find an excuse to "duck out" of the election, possibly using health grounds as an excuse.

Tears to the retina can develop with no obvious symptoms, but, often, sufferers will experience either flashes of light or floaters – black spots or lines in the field of vision caused by bleeding of torn retinal vessels or the formation of small clumps of vitreous matter. Left untreated, tears can lead to retinal detachment. The part of the retina which becomes detached will not function properly, resulting in vision loss or even total blindness.

Dr Winifred Amoaku, the vice-president of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, said laser treatment was recommended in such cases.

MPs return to Westminster tomorrow amid renewed manoeuvres to oust Mr Brown, including the possibility of rebels fielding a "Brown must go" candidate for the election of chairman of the parliamentary party. But Mr Brown can find comfort in the news that Sir Thomas Legg, who is investigating MPs' expenses, could stymie a revolt. It is understood that Sir Thomas is to send an auditor's letter to half of all MPs , ordering them to repay money or provide further details of their parliamentary allowances.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Sport
Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas
footballChelsea vs West Ham live kicks off coverage of all 10 of Boxing Day matches
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all