Parties, power and the press
When the history of the relations between politicians and the press is written, one short exchange could sum up the whole Leveson Inquiry. It was heard this morning in Court 73 of the Royal Courts of Justice.
Gordon Brown spoke with evident anguish and anger about The Sun's revelation that his youngest child had cystic fibrosis. The paper had lied and was still doing so, he said, when they claimed they'd got the story from a "man on the street" and not, as he has always insisted, from someone on his son's medical staff breaching their duty of medical confidentiality. It was also a lie, he said, that he or his wife had given their permission for the story to run.*
Why then, the inquiry's QC Robert Jay asked him, did your wife throw a 40th party at Chequers for Rebekah Brooks - the boss of News International; why did Mrs Brown send her private notes thanking her for her support; why did you continue to have close relations with Rupert Murdoch?
Gordon Brown reacted with nervous laughter followed by the insistence that his wife was very forgiving and he was merely doing his duty by trying to persuade the media at a time when the country was at war and faced a grave economic crisis.
Some will conclude the Browns felt they had no choice but to "sup with the devil". Some will say that they supped happily until it no longer suited their purposes.
* John Wilson, chief executive of NHS Fife, has added to Gordon Brown's statement to Leveson Inquiry : "We now accept that 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."