Brown denies 'aggressive' call

Former prime minister Gordon Brown and his wife Sarah arrive at the Royal Courts of Justice

George Osborne is to give evidence to the Leveson Inquiry

First published in National News © by

Gordon Brown denied behaving aggressively towards Rebekah Brooks when he telephoned her expecting an apology for negative coverage, only to be told more was to come.

The former prime minister told the Leveson Inquiry into media ethics that he was led to believe by Rupert Murdoch that the then News International chief executive would say sorry for a slew of damaging stories about his handling of Afghanistan.

But when he made the telephone call Mrs Brooks instead told him she had a taped conversation of him apologising to the furious bereaved mother of a soldier about a condolence letter he had sent her that was littered with mistakes.

Mr Brown also repeated previous denials that he had "declared war" on the Murdoch empire after it decided to switch support to the Conservatives ahead of the last general election. He said the conversation where he was "alleged to have acted in an unbalanced way" as well as threatening Mr Murdoch "never took place".

The Inquiry was told all telephone conversations with newspaper proprietors would have gone through the Downing Street switchboard, not on mobile phones. He added: "I would not have known Rupert Murdoch's phone number."

Mr Brown spoke to Mr Murdoch on November 10, 2009, over The Sun's coverage of Afghanistan and also sent him a follow-up email later that day. He told the Inquiry the newspaper had published a story criticising him for not bowing at the Cenotaph as well as an article about a letter he sent to Jacqui Janes, whose 20-year-old son Jamie, a Grenadier Guardsman, was killed by an explosion.

Mrs Janes had accused him of being "disrespectful" because the message began "Dear Mrs James" and appeared to contain other spelling errors and a visible correction to her son Jamie's name. Mr Brown has suffered with eyesight problems since a rugby accident in his youth

He said he had phoned the media mogul about the coverage but insisted there was "no reference" to the shift in The Sun's political allegiance during the Labour party conference the previous month. He said Mr Murdoch had asked him to phone Mrs Brooks, hinting she would want to apologise over the coverage. Mrs Brooks told the inquiry last month the tone of the conversation was "quite aggressive". She added: "The fact that it resulted in such an extraordinarily aggressive conversation shows that it doesn't happen all the time. I remember it very clearly from the nature of it."

Lord Justice Leveson told Mr Brown that he would have been "rather irritated" if he had called someone expecting an apology only to be told further negative stories were to come. But Mr Brown insisted "when you are dealing with some of these issues you tend to be calmer". He added: "I don't think I was aggressive."

A News Corporation spokesman said: "Rupert Murdoch stands behind his testimony."

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