Former PM’s staff reject Rebekah Brooks’s claim that story about Fraser Brown’s cystic fibrosis had then-chancellor’s approval
A former aide to Gordon Brown has challenged Rebekah Brooks’s claims that the ex-prime minister was content to see details of his son’s cystic fibrosis published in the Sun.
She made the claim at the Leveson inquiry, and was challenged by barrister Robert Jay QC.
Former advisers said that in November 2006 Brown was deeply upset when his staff was informed by political journalists that the Sun had got hold of the story that his four-month-old son Fraser was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.
The Sun team wanted to know how Brown, who was chancellor at the time, and his staff wanted to handle the fact and whether it wished to issue a statement to the paper.
The former aide, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “Brown’s initial concern was how had they got the story and then how they were going to handle it. His next concern was to make sure that it was understood that there was nothing wrong with Fraser and that he was a very happy son.”
Following consultations, Brown told his communications staff to tell the Sun that he planned to make a statement to the Press Asociation and that he did not want it to be seen that he was giving an exclusive about a story of this nature to the newspaper.
Following this, there were further personal private phone calls between Brooks and Sarah Brown, as well as Brown himself.
It is alleged that in this series of discussions Brooks objected to the idea of Brown giving their exclusive to the press in general, and said that once he was prime minister, he would not be able to handle these kind of personal issues in this way.
“At no point was there any discussion about whether the Sun was going to run this story. That was never an option and it is inaccurate to suggest permission was sought”, said the former aide.
Brown then told the Sun that he was going to issue a statement for release at 6pm that evening, at which point the Sun at senior level decided to give its exclusive to Sky News, also owned by News Corp.
Brown aides acknolwedged that they did not go to the Press Complaints Commission or to seek an injunction to protect the privacy of their family.
The former aide said: “At the time, the idea of pre-publication injunctions to prevent puiblication had not developed, so it was not considered as an option.”