I confess I am not necessarily a keen supporter of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. While I was generally impressed with him as Chancellor of the Exchequer, he seems to me to be less than sure-footed as Tony Blair’s successor – the job does not appear to be a natural fit. But this week I am on his side, and strongly so, as he has to deal with what I think is a totally outrageous campaign by the Sun newspaper, which I trust is backfiring on them.
As many readers here will probably know, the cause of all the trouble was a hand-written letter of condolence that Brown sent to the mother of a British soldier recently killed in Afghanistan, Jamie Janes. The letter contained several spelling mistakes, including an apparent misspelling of the fallen soldier’s surname. The mother passed the letter to the Sun, who wrote what I would consider a nasty piece severely attacking Brown and accusing him of being disrespectful and careless.
Of course anyone would feel sympathy for a parent who has lost a son in such circumstances, and yet it is, to me at least, incomprehensible that Mrs Janes would want to wage a campaign, not around the causes of her son’s death, but the Prime Minister’s bad spelling. But then again, grief can do terrible things to a person, and I can easily accept that anger is understandable.
No such excuse for the Sun. Apparently it is known that Gordon Brown is dyslexic. And I for one, apparently in common with most of those who have reacted to all this, find it more striking that Brown wrote a letter by hand. He subsequently even rang Mrs Janes to apologise for the misspelling.
All I can say is that, in my opinion, the behaviour of the Sun is disgraceful. The role of the media in securing a democratic and open society is vital; malicious campaigns of this kind have the potential effect of bringing the media into disrepute, which is dangerous for society. This case seems to me to be more than a failure of judgement: it is a failure to understand the nature and duties of responsible journalism.