There are many things for which I would criticise the Prime Minister. Having bad hand-writing because he is half-blind and making some spelling mistakes are not on that list.
That he has was a story that, at first, I let pass me by. But the more I have thought about it the more distasteful I have found The Sun‘s attitude and the more I have found myself respecting Gordon Brown.
I can only try and imagine the horror of losing a child – if I’m honest, it isn’t something I particularly want to imagine – so Ms Janes has my sympathy. As does the Prime Minister who, though in totally different circumstances. It seems to me that letters of condolence, whoever they are from can do little to soften the blow.
But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be written.
I, fortunately, will never have to write a letter like those the Prime Minister is writing to the families of fallen service men and women. That Gordon Brown takes the time, even if they do have spelling mistakes and bad hand-writing, to write them personally and send them without them being checked – so they are directly from him – is admirable
For the paper to reveal they have a recording of his subsequent call to Ms Janes raises even more questions. How many people have tape recorders at the ready by their phone? I can only guess; but if you forced me I’d be far more likely to think the paper is taking a Prime Minister with a track record of bad spelling and handwriting and using the anger of a grieving mother to make a story where none should exist.
We can make political points about the war and about his handling of it all day long. We shouldn’t be trying to make political points from letters like this – and I’m not sure what point The Sun is trying to make: that the Prime Minister doesn’t know each soldier personally, that he doesn’t get letters like this triple-checked by an array of Civil Servants, that he deliberately set out to upset a grieving mother and family.
Gordon Brown tried to write a letter to offer some comfort to the mother who lost her son in Afghanistan, an impossible task. For trying so personally, he deserves our praise, not our condemnation.