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On the exploitation of grief to get Gordon

Posted on 11 November 2009 | 8:11am

In my newspaper reporting days on The Mirror, one of the worst calls to make was the one to the news desk saying ‘The Sun’s got the mum.’

The situation might be a court case, a serious crime, a have-a-go-hero rescue, or a human  interest story which suddenly flared up out of nowhere and captured the nation’s imagination.

Today, I see ‘The Mirror’s got the uncle,’ namely the uncle of Jamie Janes, the young Grenadier Guardsman.  whose mother Jacqui has become a big part of The Sun’s increasingly vicious and highly personal campaign against Gordon Brown.

The uncle, Army veteran Ian Cox, strikes a very different tone to his sister, feeling that Jacqui Janes is being politically exploited in her grief, and also that the Prime Minister deserves an apology.

The circumstances for the family are bad enough, with the death of a loved one. But they become even worse if there are family divisions on how to react, all reported to suit the agenda of one paper or another.

The Sun, largely for its own commercial and marketing reasons, decided to come out for the Tories at Labour’s conference.

They don’t like to back a loser and will be worried that despite the battering Labour have taken, the Tories are far from home and dry.

The viciousness – and they will be hard pressed to say their coverage of the PM’s letter has been anything short of vicious – is a sign of that worry. But precisely because they made such a splash with the switch to the Tories, their own readers, and the wider public, now know more than ever that their coverage is politically driven and totally biased against Brown.

Worse than that though, they continue to present themselves as the friend and supporter of the troops while their coverage over recent months has done much to undermine the war in which those troops are engaged.

Today of all days, they might reflect on that beyond the next ‘get Brown’ story.

  • @jlocke13

    You and your colleagues were very happy when, at the end of the Major government, the boot was on the other foot and the same tactics were employed against the elected government….!! I have just heard Lord Mandelson complain about the Sun…what hypocrisy.

  • Charlie

    No one MAKES Brown do this job.
    He is just incabable of realising what is blindingly obvious to most of us……
    He’s just not very good at it (inspt? unlucky?)and should have gone when he had the chance to go with some dignity.

    No one comes out of this fiasco well but what is increasingly clear is that Gordon Brown is bringing the Office of Prime Minister into disrepute.

  • Gill Petrokofsky

    At a college dinner last night, the mood was certainly one of disgust at the ‘extremely poor taste’ displayed by the Sun. Admittedly university colleges are not the natural reader-base of the Sun, but they are of Murdoch’s other news titles. The view seemed to be that there were plenty of things to bash Gordon about but this was most certainly not one of them. And in fact no bash-worthy issue did emerge with universal support! Even in the midst of the Nutt story, where the Government’s support of scientists is considered ambiguous at best, there was only a hazy notion of where one could attack GB with good supporting evidence. Perhaps that will hearten him.

  • Steven Chase

    I cannot be alone in feeling that just as it was wrong when the Sun put the boot into Major to suit a biased agenda, so it is wrong now. The public are longing for open and honest debate but we don’t get it from our papers today. And I thought it was wrong for the BBC to use the tape yesterday, not knowing how it was produced, and whether indeed it was all part of the Sun’s exploitation

  • Alison HArdie

    Cameron wise to keep out of this. But it would be even better if he indicated he deplores the way this issue has been exploited. On Armistice Day, the best thing thst could happen today is a united message of support for our troops

  • George Woodhouse

    Apart from the fact that I cannot take anything seriously that you say about the awful behaviour of the press my thoughts are as follows:
    1. The reported Sun coverage (I havent actually read the Sun article) has made no difference to my feelings about the Sun newspaper. A dreadful populist comic of a newspaper whose only agenda is to follow Murdock to wherever he sees success heading.
    2. Nor has it changed anything that I believe about Gordon Brown being an incompetant political bully who is way out of his depth.

  • ed

    Mmm – orchestrating vicious media campaigns against individuals……pot kettle AC – its what you did on numerous occasions and what the likes of fatty McBride did for Balls and Brown. I think most people know exactly what the Sun is about and think the whole letter thing is a fairly tawdry exercise in media manipulation. That said, do I have any sympathy for Brown. No – given that his wilful negligence in financing these wars ensured that troops went into battle without the proper equipment and suffered devasting consequences, I have no sympathy or concern for his sensibilities whatsoever. He is a waste of space and I dare say that the majority of the country feel the same. (Moral compass – that was demagnetised a long time ago).

    Your great weakness AC, what demonstrates your utter hypocrisy, is when you try and adopt a higher moral tone than the gutter press – you came from them and are one of them; your track record speaks for itself I am afraid and no amount of attempted reinvention can escape that. The amusing thing are the amount of sychophants who post here calling for you to stand as an MP or to get more involved in the Nulab campaign – even you must know that that would really send nulabs votes in the wrong direction.

    Ed (former labour voter)

  • jenifer

    Alastair, I agree that the Sun’s coverage of the PM’s letter is indeed in bad taste, but did you not encourage that sort of ‘news’ when you were in a position to attack the Conservative government? Perhaps the time is coming when we will hear an apology from you?

  • Terry Evans

    Very good blog that reflects my views on this entirely. I bang the drum about the red tops all of the time on this blog. This poor mother is being manipulated and exploited by the Sun and the editor (whoever that is) should hang their heads in shame. Anybody with half a brain can see that the Prime Minister has been genuine and sincere in his actions. I feel very sorry for him as well as Mrs. Janes.

  • bert

    Campbell, you talk about media bias against Brown without a single trace of irony. This is the man who has done more than any other PM to undermine, smear, and destabilise his enemies using the media. Utterly incredible.

    We all know how balanced the Daily Mirror is in its reporting.

    As for this whole sorry episode, I am stunned how Brown has come out of this with people viewing him as an unfortunate victim. Have the public taken leave of their senses? Have people forgotten the 10p tax debacle, the flunked election, the distortions and the downright lies coming from Brown and his chronies? Also incredible.

    I know the public are fickle – this is beyond belief.

    There is one person who feels sorry for Brown more than anyone else – his name is Gordon Brown.

  • Baz

    I have watched Jamie Janes mother express disappointment about the letter and heard a short extract of the telephone conversation with Gordon Brown. How Gordon Brown has come out of this as the victim is beyond me. Little respect was paid by him in the letter or telephone conversation. The fact that her husband and son were forced to buy there own equipment was the main point she was making.

    Not providing adequate equipment and helecopters is costing the lives of our armed forces. I worked for MoD
    for 4 years and could not believe how they managed their resources. Radical rationalsation is overdue.

    I admit I have not read the Sun newspaer on the days this subject was covered. If the mother of Jamie Janes was exploited she allowed this to happen in order to get the message about the Government and MoD’s failure to supply adequate equipment for the people who risk their lives in a war zone to protect ours.