Gordon Brown attacks ‘politicised’ newspapers

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by a Newsnet reporter

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has launched an attack on the press in the UK accusing it of having become too “politicised” and of trying to “destroy pieces of people’s characters” to make political points.

Mr Brown made the remarks in a rare unannounced public appearance where he joined his wife Sarah onstage during an event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.  Mrs Brown was appearing at the event to answer public questions about everyday life at Number 10 Downing St, the topic of her recent book Behind the Black Door.

Mrs Brown answered questions from the audience about her book and her life as ‘WPM’, the wife of the Prime Minister, while her husband listened from a seat in the front row.  Mrs Brown then invited her husband onto the stage as “her guest for the evening” and for the next hour the couple jointly took questions from the audience.

In a wide ranging discussion which focussed mainly on the couple’s charity work, Mr Brown was asked by a member of the audience about his views on the recent phone hacking scandal.  The Browns have themselves revealed that they believe they were victims of phone hacking allegedly carried out by newspapers. 

In response to the question Mr Brown noted that the couple believed they had been victims of computer hacking as well as phone hacking, saying:  “We will find that it is not just telephones that have been hacked into, but computers through trojans [viruses], and we will find that it will go on and on for ever.”

Mr Brown then launched into an attack on what he sees as the “politicisation” of elements of the British media, saying:  “I think that certain newspapers became highly politicised.  In Britain, what the press do, if they really want to get at someone, is they challenge their motives and their integrity.

“They try to suggest that they’re not the person that they say they are.  The way the press works in this country is they try to doubt the motives of people all the time.  They try to suggest that you’ve got a malign purpose in what you’re doing.

“And they try to take pieces of people’s characters and destroy those pieces so they can make their political point as a result of that.  You can’t say it is not hurtful when you go to the Festival of Remembrance in the Albert Hall and there’s a prayer, and the Sun photographs you praying and says you’ve fallen asleep during the sermon.  Or if you go to the Remembrance Sunday and the laying of the wreath, and the same newspaper wants to destroy your character by saying that you refused to bow when of course you were bowing.”

Mr Brown made similar criticisms of the press during a speech to the House of Commons in July.  In what was only his second appearance in the House of Commons since losing the General Election and resigning as Prime Minister, Mr Brown made a long accusatory speech in which he apparently blamed the phone hacking scandal and the problems in the media on everyone but himself.  

Mr Brown claimed that he had wanted a full public enquiry into the media when he was Prime Minister but that it had been blocked by the Civil Service.  The speech provoked a rare public intervention from Sir Gus O’Donell, Chief Secretary to the Cabinet Office and head of the Civil Service, strongly contesting Mr Brown’s version of events.