Danny Rogers: Is The Sun going too far in attacks on PM?

At the time of writing, a public backlash was building against The Sun over the newspaper's treatment of exchanges between Gordon Brown and bereaved mother Jacqui Janes.

Danny Rogers
Danny Rogers

In echoes of the late 1970s, we have a newly confident red top leader. The Sun is making money (unlike most of its national rivals), has rediscovered its political voice and is breaking good stories (regardless of one's views on the subsequent row, ‘Lettergate' was a good story).

But has the paper made a reputational mistake in pushing this story too hard? It was fascinating to hear George Pascoe-Watson - The Sun's political editor until joining Portland PR recently - first defending his former employer (BBC Radio 4, The World at One, Monday), then accusing it of going too far (Radio 5Live, Tuesday).

Is The Sun becoming over-confident - indeed over-personal - in its attacks on the PM? Even Rupert Murdoch admitted to Sky News Australia earlier this week that he regretted the onslaught against his ‘friend'.

Of course, previous attacks on public figures, from Neil Kinnock to John Major, have been equally vicious, but in this case The Sun is in danger of offending the British sense of ‘fair play'. The consensus is that Brown, despite his faults, is a good man - and someone who did the right thing in writing to Mrs Janes personally after the death of her soldier son in Afghanistan and then phoning her on Monday to apologise for the spelling mistakes/bad handwriting in his letter.

Where a national newspaper should be attacking the Prime Minister is on policy and on hypocrisy: for example, when was the last time a political leader sent their child to war?

All that said, Brown's office hasn't done itself any favours. Like much of good comms, the devil is in the detail.

Someone should be carefully checking all correspondence emanating from Downing Street and someone should be briefing the PM on correct etiquette (bowing when laying a remembrance wreath).

Above all, someone should be gently reminding Brown of the need to rise above this row with dignity, because that is perhaps his only hope for future success. 

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