Gordon Brown is a tragic figure in many ways. I always regarded him as a flawed character, but much more principled than Tony Blair. Unlike Blair, he was of the labour movement, and seemed to want an end to the Thatcherism that Blair perpetuated.
Today, at Leveson, Brown was asked straight, whether (as his erstwhile friend Rebekah Brooks, claimed) he gave permission to the Murdoch press to publish details of his young son’s illness. He denied that he had, effectively calling Brooks a liar. Similarly, he flatly denied Rupert Murdoch’s claim that, in the course of a phone call in late September or early October 2009, he’d (in Murdoch’s words) “declared war” on Murdoch’s business empire when the Sun changed sides and came out in support of Cameron before the last election.
I certainly believe Brown on the matter of his son. I’m not sure (who can be?) about the phone conversation with Murdoch. But even if he did say what Murdoch claims, who could reasonably blame him?
But, I’m afraid, Brown has proven himself to be a liar, plain and simple, on a further matter: in his evidence to the Inquiry, Brown denied asking his Treasury adviser Charlie Whelan to brief against Tony Blair while he (Brown) was Chancellor.
Blair’s former spin doctor Alastair Campbell had, previously, told the Inquiry that there was a “real problem” with Whelan.
Asked by Robert Jay, Leveson’s “forensic” inquirer, if Whelan or any other advisers briefed behind Blair’s back in order to force him from office, Brown replied: “I would hope not, I have no evidence for that.”
There was “tittle-tattle”, he said, but all special advisers’ media dealings went through civil servants under tough guidelines.
Now, we all know that’s a lie. Sadly, it taints everything else that this tragic figure had to say at Leveson today, including the stuff about his son that was almost certainly true.