Leveson Inquiry: Brown accuses Sun of carrying out a vendetta against him

 

Gordon Brown accused the Sun of carrying out a vendetta against him during his last years as Prime Minister.

Appearing before the Leveson Inquiry, he said the Sun had repeatedly twisted reports on the war on Afghanistan to make it look as if he did not care about British troops.

In a trenchant performance, he vigorously defended his record on media regulation and singled out for attack the Sun and Rupert Murdoch. However, he said he regretted not having reformed the lobby system for political reporting.

His son's illness

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 Sun splashed on an exclusive that four-month-old Fraser had cystic fibrosis. Last summer it denied Mr Brown’s suggestion that it had obtained the story by dubious means, insisting it had come from a member of the public. Mr Brown produced a letter from Fife NHS trust saying that 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 inappropriate accessed. Mr Brown vehemently denied the Sun’s claimed that he had approved the story. “I ask you, if any mother or any father was presented with a choice as to whether a four month-old son’s medical condition should be broadcast on the front-page of a tabloid newspaper and you had a choice in this matter, I don’t think there is any parent in the land would have made the choice that we are told we made.” The inquiry’s lawyer, Robert Jay, pointed out that his wife had organised a birthday party for the Sun’s editor Rebekah Brooks at Chequers in June 2008, after the story was published. Mr Brown said his wife was a “forgiving” character. (News International responded: “We welcome the fact that NHS Fife have today said that they believe there was ‘no inappropriate access’ to the medical records of Gordon Brown’s son.”

On Afghanistan, Mr Brown said that Britain’s best-selling daily newspaper had wrongly accused him of not bowing at the Cenotaph, of sleeping at a remembrance service and of making mistakes in a letter of condolence sent to the mother of a soldier killed in the war. He described News International’s behaviour as “offensive.”

Rupert Murdoch

The former Labour leader strongly denied having “declared war” on News Corp after the Sun switched support to the Conservatives in September 2009. Mr Brown produced a list of incoming and outgoing calls from Downing Street, covering both landlines and mobile phone, which showed that the only phone conversation he had with Rupert Murdoch was on 10 November 2010. Then, Mr Brown said they only discussed Afghanistan. “This conversation never took place,” Mr Brown said. “I’m shocked and surprised it should be suggested… All my conversations with Mr Murdoch were perfectly civilised and were courteous.” A News Corporation spokesperson said "Rupert Murdoch stands behind his testimony."

James Murdoch

Mr Brown accused James Murdoch of aggressively pursuing its commercial agenda with politicians. He said News Corp wanted to “neuter” the BBC by cutting the licence fee and restricting its involvement in the internet, shrivel Ofcom, and ensure more sports rights went to BSkyB. He said: “It became very clear in the summer of 2009 that News International had a highly politicised agenda for changes in the medoa policy of this country.”

Press regulation

There was a need for tougher regulation to defend families like the Dowlers who were abused by the press, the former Labour leader. While Lord Leveson had asked the question: ‘Who guards the guardians?’ he wanted to ask: ‘who defends the defenceless?” He also said any new system should reward good journalism as well as punish bad behaviour and hinted that the BBC licence fee could be spread more widely, not just among broadcasters other than the BBC but also possibly to newspapers struggling in the digital age. He regretted not reforming the lobby system, which he suggested catered for an elite of political reporters. He complained: "If you announced something to Parliament or announced it in a speech it would not be reported.” He denied ordering his spin doctors to drip poison into the ears of journalists about his political opponents. Asked whether he had authorised selective anonymous briefings by his spokesmen Charlie Whelan and Damien McBride (who were both forced to resign), he said: “No, I wouldn’t say that at all.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Sport
football
Life and Style
Agretti is often compared to its relative, samphire, though is closer in taste to spinach
food + drink
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
i100
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

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

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?