Gordon Brown criticises the Sun for revealing his son’s cystic fibrosis, while Chancellor George Osborne denies there was a conspiracy between the Conservatives and Rupert Murdoch.
Former prime minister Gordon Brown told the inquiry into press standards that his family went through a very difficult time when the Sun revealed his son Fraser was suffering from cystic fibrosis and denied permission had been sought before the story was published, as News International has claimed.
He said the Sun was told by a father whose own son had the disease, a “middle-man” working for the NHS. He strongly denied that his wife gave permission for the Sun to reveal the details of his son’s condition.
Mr Brown said: “I think we have to learn lessons from this but “surely the rights of children must come first”. He added that he had not even told some of relatives about his son’s illness before the Sun’s story was published.
The former prime minister also denied Rupert Murdoch’s claim that he had told him he would wage “war” on his companies after the Sun switched its support from Labour to the Conservatives before the 2010 election.
He said there was a point between 2008 and 2009 when News International decided its commercial interest came first – James Murdoch gave a speech which was quite “breathtaking in its arrogance” as he took on the BBC, Ofcom, and a range of issues, said Mr Brown.
Mr Osborne was asked about a private meeting that was supposed to have taken place in 2010 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, at which a pact was allegedly agreed over News Corporation’s plans to take over BSkyB.
Asked if he had attended, he said: “No, it’s not true.” But Mr Osborne said he had met Rupert and James Murdoch and former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks at a ski chalet in Davos a year earlier in 2009.
Mr Osborne said the bid by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation’s for full control of BSkyB was a “political inconvenience” that would “cause us trouble one way or the other”, adding that it was “complete nonsense” to believe there was a “vast conspiracy” to give Mr Murdoch what he wanted.
He defended the decision to employ former News of the World editor Andy Coulson as the Conservatives’ director of communications, saying that his contacts at News International were “not relevant” to his appointment.
Following Gordon Brown’s evidence, Fife NHS Trust confirmed in a statement: “It is highly likely that, sometime in 2006, a member of staff in NHS Fife spoke, without authorisation, about the medical condition of Mr Brown’s son, Fraser.
“With the passage of time it has not been possible to identify all the circumstances. We believe, however, that there was no inappropriate access to the child’s medical records. We are quite clear that conversations about patients are just as much a breach of confidentiality as looking into their medical records.
“We have apologised to Mr and Mrs Brown and we have taken steps to ensure that what happened to Mr and Mrs Brown and their family should not happen again.”
Gary Gibbon comments on some of Gordon Brown’s evidence which has raised eyebrows: “Gordon Brown claimed that he tended to be ‘very calm indeed’ when things were going badly. He insisted his call with Rebekah Brooks was calm.
Lord Justice Leveson seemed to think that a little surprising. I understand that it was a phone call that ended with Mr Brown slamming the phone down on Mrs Brooks – presumably very calmly.”
Following such intrusions, Mr Brown was asked why his wife remained friends with Rebekah Brooks. Mr Brown said: “Sarah is one of the most forgiving people I know and finds the good in everyone.”
He added that all politicians must accept scrutiny, but added that there were “attempts in every area” to get his personal information when he was chancellor.
He added that the Sunday Times Insight team made attempts to claim he bought a London flat in a “under-the-counter” deal.
He said: “I was accused of buying a flat in an under-the-counter sale by the Sunday Times, and they would not accept that this flat that I was supposed to have bought at a knock-down price without it being put on the open market, was advertised in the Sunday Times itself.”