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
Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
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: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk