29 January 2015

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Scottish Sunday: ‘We knew about Brown son’s illness’

A Scottish Sunday paper has revealed it refused to publish details of Gordon Brown’s son’s illness out of respect for his family’s privacy despite having the story weeks before the nationals.

Appearing before the Leveson Inquiry into press standards  last week, the former Prime Minister criticised The Sun for revealing in 2006 that his son Fraser had been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.

Dundee-based title the Sunday Post has now revealed that it knew about Fraser’s condition weeks before the story was published in the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid.

In its political column Holyrood Diary,  the paper said it contacted the Brown family at the time, but decided not to publish details of the illness when they did not want to comment on it.

The Post’s article said: “At the Leveson Inquiry last week, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown attacked News International newspapers for publishing details of his young son’s illness.

The Sunday Post heard about the baby’s condition (cystic fibrosis) weeks before they were published in The Sun.

“We contacted the Browns and they told us they didn’t want to comment. We respected their privacy, and didn’t print the story. Remember that not all newspapers are the same.”

The Post’d disclosures give weight to Mr Brown’s claims that he had never given newspapers permission to use the story.

In his inquiry evidence, Mr Brown said he had not given The Sun permission to publish details of his son’s illness, contradicting the evidence of the paper’s former editor Rebekah Brooks.

He said the National Health Service in Fife had apologised to him because they believed it was likely the information about the condition had been leaked by a member of staff which had allowed The Sun to find out about it.

Mr Brown told the Inquiry: “I ask you: if any mother or any father was presented with a choice as to whether a four-month old son’s medical condition, your child’s medical condition, should be broadcast on the front page of a tabloid newspaper and you had a choice in this matter – I don’t think there’s any parent in the land would have made the choice that we are told we made, to give explicit permission for that to happen.”

However when Mrs Brooks was questioned at the inquiry last month about whether the Browns had given their express agreement to publish the story about Fraser, she said: “Absolutely”.

She added: “If the Browns had asked me not to run it, I wouldn’t have done. There are many examples where – very tragic situations in people’s lives where people have asked me not to run the story and I haven’t and I wouldn’t have done, and not only was I – they gave me permission to run it; it is the only way we would have put that in the public domain.”


  1. Subbed Out

    Fair play to The Sunday Post. Good straight bat. However, I wouldn’t believe a word Gordon Brown says about anything. I think that during his short time as an unelected Prime Minister the country was able to form a lot of conclusions about him. None positive.

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  2. Rob

    All Prime Ministers are unelected – when did you ever get a vote on who was going to be Prime Minister? It might be implied that the party leader will become PM, but there is never and has never been an explicit vote for a Prime Minister.
    The fact that he was elected to Parliament and chosen by his party, which held the majority of seats at the time, to be Prime Minister is exactly the same way Tony Blair, Maggie Thatcher, David Cameron et al took up the office of PM.
    Still, it’s easier to trot out the same old crap that the tabloids come out with to suit an argument or back up a personal opinion. Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.

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  3. Phil Creighton

    I might be a southerner, but I’m a proud Sunday Post reader. Mainly for the cartoons.

    The current editor, Donald Martin, has made radical changes to drastically improve the paper – increasing pagination, creating lively spreads and injecting some hard news into it. And he’s been very careful about how it’s been done – bit by bit, not all in one chunk. Very clever and I’m really enjoying the read.

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  4. Curious

    Brown was a rubbish PM who squandered our cash – but that doesn’t make him a liar.
    News International’s track record for telling the truth makes me know who I believe.
    Subbed Out now has further evidence from the Sunday Post which reinforces what Gordon said.
    Instead of attacking yesterday’s man Brown, Subbed Out should use his ire by to shine the spotlight on the rotten apple in the Press barrel which is giving us all a bad name.
    The Sunday Post’s approach was what I would expect from every media organisation playing within the rules and within the bounds of human decency.

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  5. GladImOutOfIt

    Poor old Gordon. One of the only two honest PMs this country has had in the last 50 years (the other one was John Major) and you’d rather believe Murdoch/Blair/Cameron than him? Shame on you

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  6. wastepaperbasket

    GladImOutOfIt — you are out of it! Honest John? I believe he used to enjoy a good curry.

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  7. Yokkel

    Curiously, in this report The Sunday Post do not answer perhaps the biggest question surrounding this issue – where did the information come from?

    Brown firstly accused journos at NI of hacking medical records – which turned out to be false – NHS staff have had the finger pointed, by their own employer, at them for leaking details, while The Sun claim to have a sworn statement from their source.

    As Leveson is all about media ethics – and in large part how stories are sourced – I would have thought The Post “Remember that not all newspapers are the same” would want this crucial information in the public domain – or is it’s contribution partial, to fit the Scottish political scene?

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  8. Hack, the north

    Well played Sunday Post. Most newspapers would have behaved in the exact same way as them, and so we should. Every day we come across stories that we choose not to publish. In fact, we often delay running doing stories on our own website many hours after they’ve already been on Twitter /.Facebook because it would be morally wrong not to do so (deaths of soldiers in Afghanistan, for example, when members of their own families don’t know). Our own high-profile MP had her own family crisis, and it’s never seen the light of day simply because it’s totally irrelevant to how she does her job.

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  9. old hack

    Well said Yokkel.

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