'Mortified' PM apologises over condolence note

Brown telephones soldier's mother after spelling son's name wrong in letter
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Gordon Brown has apologised to the mother of a soldier killed in Afghanistan after misspelling her name in a letter of condolence.

The Prime Minister telephoned Jacqui Janes to say sorry after she criticised him over the hand-written letter he sent after Guardsman Jamie Janes, 20, from Brighton, was killed in an explosion in October.

It was addressed to "Mrs James," the surname Mr Brown also mistakenly used last month when he read out a list of 37 servicemen killed in Afghanistan in the Commons.

In a video distributed by The Sun newspaper, Mrs Janes called the letter a "hastily scrawled insult". She said the letter had been "scrawled so quickly I could hardly even read it" and that "some of the words were half-finished", and described it as "disrespectful" and an "insult" to her son.

Mr Brown is said to be "mortified" that Mrs Janes was upset by his letter. No 10 declined to say whether it had been checked after he wrote it, but said he would continue to hand-write letters to the families of servicemen killed in action.

The Prime Minister, who admitted his writing could be "difficult to read", said he was sorry for "any unintended mistake". In a statement yesterday he said: "I have at all times acted in good faith seeking to do the right thing. I do not think anyone will believe that I write letters with any intent to cause offence."

The criticism over the letter will add to Mr Brown's woes over Afghanistan as he seeks to explain the mission to a British public that is increasingly hostile towards it. The Sun, which ended its support for Labour in September and endorsed the Tories, has repeatedly attacked the Government's treatment of British troops serving in Afghanistan.

The Business Secretary Lord Mandelson yesterday said it was "unthinkable" that the Prime Minister intended any disrespect, and urged people to understand that that the story in "context" of the fact that The Sun had chosen to campaign against Gordon Brown and Labour in the run-up to next year's general election.

* Yesterday the Ministry of Defence named a soldier killed by an improvised service device in Helmand province on Saturday as Rifleman Philip Allen, 20, of 2nd Battalion The Rifles. He was on a routine ground clearance patrol providing security for local Afghans.