Saturday, 16 July 2011

Gordon Brown vs The Sun

The other day, Gordon Brown laid into The Sun and News International in an interview for the BBC and the Guardian, which was then Streisanded across the rest of the media (1).

The Sun called foul over a claim, attributed to Brown in the Guardian's version of the story, that The Sun obtained Fraser Brown's medical records (2). The information was actually given to the paper by a member of the public who has "has links with the Brown family," though just how he learned of Fraser Brown's condition has not yet made clear.

The Guardian acknowledged an error was made and retracted the statement (3). The Sun, having been at the receiving end for a the last few days, was entitled to crow over the inaccuracy, especially as it was attributed to Nick Davies, the guardian journalist who has been leading the investigation into phone hacking (4).

Only, The Sun appears to piss on its own victory parade by doing exactly what the Guardian did - making a false claim about what gordon Brown said:
The apology came after we told how our source was the dad of another child with cystic fibrosis - and that the ex-PM was mistaken in claiming we were guilty of wrongdoing. (5)
As far as I'm aware, Brown did not claim the Sun was guilty of 'wrongdoing' with regards the information obtained about Fraser Brown. The Guardian described his comments on that topic as follows:
Brown said he had no idea how the Sun had obtained the information and questioned the paper's claim last night that this had been done legitimately.

"They will have to explain themselves. I can't think of any way that the medical condition of a child can be put into the public domain legitimately unless the doctor makes a public statement or the family make a statement. (6)
The way The Sun obtained the information was obtained was certainly not 'legitimate,' as Brown defined it, but at the same time not quite 'wrongdoing' as the Sun claims. Papers are given information by members of the public all the time; it's how they operate. Brown would have known this, and wouldn't have regarded a paper being given a tip as 'wrongdoing' on the part of the paper.

Nor does Gordon Brown state, or even imply, The Sun accessed Fraser Brown's medical records. That appears to have been wholly a mistake by the Guardian, as their apology indicates.

I think this is the quote that is causing the confusion:
I had my bank account broken into. I had my legal files effectively broken into. My tax returns went missing at one point. Medical records were broken into. I don't know how this happened. (7)
Brown mentions 'medical records' being broken into, but does not specify whose records, or who broke into them. Since the interview also described the publicizing of Fraser Brown's condition, people seem to have made the link between one and the other, though brown doesn't actually make it himself. It may be he was referring to his daughter, Jennifer, who died in 2002 and whose condition was also revealed by the media. Or even his own medical records - remember the rumours about him being depressed, psychotic, hooked on anti-depressants and so on?

Importantly, he also doesn't directly accuse News International of being behind this specific :
I do know that in two instances there is absolute proof that News International hired people to do this and the people who are doing this are criminals, known criminals in some cases with records of violence and fraud. (8)
So he is only saying News International were definitely behind two of the instances referred to, but not all of them.

The Guardian blundered, honestly, in its haste to run its story. The Sun seems to have been lead astray by its pathological hatred of Brown.
1 - "Gordon Brown condemns 'disgusting work' of News International journalists," by Nick Davies. Published in The Guardian, 12th of July, 2011. (
2 - "Brown Wrong," by Tom Newton Dunn. Published in The Sun, 13th of July, 2011. (
3 - "Corrections and clarifications," by the Corrections and clarifications column editor. Published in The Guardian, 15th of July, 2011. (
4 - "Guardian: Sorry, Sun," by Emily Nash. Published in The Sun, 15th of July, 2011. (
5 - ibid.
6 -Davies, op. cit.
7 - ibid.
8 - ibid.


Robert said...

Yes you mean he blamed everyone in the world except the one bloke who's fault it all was Brown.

He's great at telling us who's fault it is . It was his fault he was leader.

lurgee said...

I don't understand how you can blame Gordon Brown for a third party leaking his private business to a tabloid. That's just odd.

As for the wider matter of phone hacking and related issues, that's been dragging on for years, but only really came into focus as a big issue in (I think) 2009. And by that point there were other weighty matters that needed attending to - saving the world economy.

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