Brown launches attack on Sun 'vendetta'

By Martin Hickman

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

At the Leveson inquiry he said the tabloid had repeatedly twisted reports on the war in Afghanistan to make it look as if he did not care about British troops. He also vigorously defended his record on media regulation and rounded on the Sun - and Rupert Murdoch in particular - over a series of attacks. The most compelling segments of his testimony focused on:

Spin doctors

Brown denied ordering his spin doctors to drip poison into the ears of journalists about his opponents. Asked whether he had authorised selective anonymous briefings by his spokesmen Charlie Whelan and Damian McBride (who were both forced to resign), he said: "No, I wouldn't say that at all." Had his people undermined former Prime Minister Tony Blair? "If they did so, it was without my authorisation."

His son's illness

Brown was angriest when discussing the Sun's reporting of his son's genetic disorder.

In November 2006, the paper splashed on an exclusive that 4-month-old Fraser had cystic fibrosis.

Last northern summer it insisted the story had come from a member of the public. Brown produced a letter from Fife NHS Trust saying it was now "highly likely" a staff member had spoken about the story without authorisation, although there was no evidence medical records had been inappropriately accessed.

Brown vehemently denied the Sun's claim that he had 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 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. Brown said his wife was a "forgiving" person.

News International responded: "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."

Rupert Murdoch

Brown strongly denied having "declared war" on News Corp after the Sun switched its support to the Conservatives in September 2009.

"This conversation never took place. I'm shocked and surprised it should be suggested. All my conversations with Mr Murdoch were perfectly civilised."

He then produced a list of incoming and outgoing calls from Downing St, which showed that the only conversation he had with Murdoch was on November 10, 2010, in which he said they discussed Afghanistan. A News Corp spokesperson said: "Rupert Murdoch stands behind his testimony."

James Murdoch

Brown accused James Murdoch of aggressively pursuing his commercial agenda with politicians. He said News Corp wanted to "neuter" the BBC by cutting the licence fee, shrink Ofcom, and ensure more sports rights went to BSkyB.

Tom Watson

Brown said the Government had been under pressure from News International to sack MP Tom Watson, the Brown ally who had been pursuing phone hacking at the News of the World.

Brown said: "I remember telling him [Watson] on a telephone call that my wife had received a text from Rebekah Brooks questioning his continuationas a minister."

- Independent

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