Wednesday 21 March 2018

I didn't plot against Blair or threaten Murdoch, says Brown

Gordon Brown. Photo: Getty Images
Gordon Brown. Photo: Getty Images

Rowena Mason in London

Gordon Brown denied ever plotting against Tony Blair or threatening Rupert Murdoch in evidence to the Leveson Inquiry yesterday.

The former British prime minister was dogged by accusations of bullying throughout his time at No 10 but insisted that he never "authorised" any briefing against colleagues.

Mr Brown also strongly rejected claims that he declared "war" on Mr Murdoch in a telephone call after losing the support of 'The Sun' newspaper.

He described the allegations as "gossip, rumour, innuendo" and even accused Peter Mandelson and Alistair Darling of putting "tittle-tattle" about alleged plots in their memoirs.

Mr Brown said he "hoped" none of his aides had ever tried to oust ministers and there was "no evidence" they ever tried to do so.

A number of senior politicians have said publicly that Mr Brown and his aides were trying to get rid of them. Mr Blair believed a cabal around his former chancellor was plotting to oust him at the height of the London terrorist attacks in 2006.

Mr Darling also thought Mr Brown was trying to replace him as chancellor with Ed Balls. He described working with the former prime minister as like "having dental treatment without anaesthetic".

However, Mr Brown said yesterday he considered Mr Darling a "friend" and would never have tried to get him removed.

He did admit he was warned by civil servants and MPs about the activities of one adviser, Damian McBride, who was later forced to resign over emails revealing a plot to smear top Conservatives.

Mr Brown faced questions about his own behaviour when asked whether he had ever "threatened" the Murdoch media empire.

He admitted that he spoke to Rupert Murdoch on the phone in early November 2010 to complain about coverage of the war in Afghanistan in 'The Sun', but denied evidence by Mr Murdoch that there was an angry call between the two men after 'The Sun' withdrew its support for the Labour Party.

"There is no evidence of this call happening at the time he said this call happened," Mr Brown said. "The call did not happen, the threat was not made."

Mr Brown said he found it "offensive" that the newspaper tried to "ruin party confidence" by withdrawing its support, but he claims he did not contact Mr Murdoch about it.


News Corporation immediately released a statement saying that Mr Murdoch "stands by his evidence".

Mr Brown said he was more concerned about suggestions in 'The Sun' that he had shown disrespect to troops by failing to bow at a cenotaph and sending a letter to the mother of a dead soldier littered with mistakes.

He admitted trying to get Mr Murdoch to stop these "personal" attacks but denied being "obsessed" with the newspapers.

However, Geoffrey Robinson, the former Labour paymaster general, who was close to Mr Brown, said yesterday that he had "chosen his words very carefully" under oath.

"He was very aware of the press," said Mr Robinson.

"He remained very clear that he probably went to phoning editors all the time to know what they were going to do or to try and influence what they were going to do."

Mr Brown said meetings with newspaper editors were his "duty" and defended the need for a free press, but he said newspapers sometimes went too far, and criticised 'The Sun' for publishing a story about his son suffering from cystic fibrosis.

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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