I didn't want to do it but I have listened to the phone call between Gordon Brown and Jacqui Janes, bereaved mother of British soldier Jamie Janes who died in Afghanistan. I listened to it because I was planning to blog about it and thought it was only fair to listen first.
Before I listened I thought it was wrong for The Sun to have released this phone call which was supposed to have been private between the PM and a grieving mother. After listening to it it has only strengthened my view.
Jacqui is wholly understandably very distraught both about the letter that Gordon Brown sent that she considers an insult to his memory (due to misspellings and perceived shoddiness) but also what she considers a lack of equipment provided for the troops, especially helicopters. She makes these points forcefully on several occasions during the call, her voice cracking with emotion. At one point she does seem to be crying as she relates in detail the injuries that her son sustained before he died. Gordon Brown throughout tries to express his condolences and sympathy. He does at one point try to maintain that he did not make spelling mistakes which seems wrong to me as having seen the letter I think it is pretty clear he did in a few places.
I think what The Sun have now done is an unwarranted intrusion into a mother's grief. I know Jacqui must have recorded the call herself and/or given permission for it to have been released but she is a bereaved, intensely angry mother who has just lost her son. The newspaper should have been more responsible than to have released the recording. I felt very wrong listening to it myself and as I said would not have done so except for the fact that I was going to blog about it.
There is another thing about the way the recording is presented by The Sun on its website. They are using a Flash player which also allows video footage. Whilst the call is being played images of Remembrance Sunday, a soldier being brought home in a coffin and also a still of the letter Mr Brown sent scroll past. The image of Remembrance Sunday has Mr Brown standing in the centre of the picture. the only other person visible over his right shoulder is John Major. I cannot believe this is a coincidence although The Sun will doubtless claim it is. The signal is clear to me. They are trying to communicate that Brown is finished and in the same position as Major was at the end of his premiership. To be using this phone call to communicate subliminal political messages like this is just plain wrong.
I of course have immense sympathy for Jacqui and cannot imagine what she has gone through. I also feel very sorry for Gordon Brown regarding this episode. He did make a mistake with the letter but he has apologised and tried to make up for it. He is clearly very embarrassed about what has happened and he does not deserve the treatment that he is now getting from The Sun.
They should remove this recording from their site.
PS: I have deliberately not linked to The Sun's page featuring the recording.