Grenadier Guard Jamie Janes, aged only 20 years, last month was killed in an explosion whilst serving as part of the British armed services in Afghanistan.
British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, wrote a note to his grieving mother, Jacqui Janes of East Sussex, to share his condolences about her son’s death. Mrs Janes took great offense to the letter because it appeared to her to have approximately 25 spelling mistakes, including what looks like a misinterpretation of her son’s name. Gordon Brown is renowned for having bad handwriting as he is blind in one eye. No excuse though for what looks like a rushed job.
During the week of the Labour Party Conference in Brighton this year, The Sun newspaper, own by a division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, printed a front page article announcing that they were backing the Conservatives in the lead up to next years general election in England.
The Sun has taken up Jacqui Janes cause, publishing the letter, and pointing out the errors of the letter.
Gordon Brown called Jacqui Janes personally to offer his condolences personally. The thirteen minute call was recorded unbeknownst to Mr Brown, and a transcript has appeared in … yep, you guessed it … The Sun.
The phone call was a disaster for Brown. Janes attacks his policy of troop funding from many different angles and tries to turn the call into a political debate on the subject. Brown tries respectfully to keep on message about wanting to share his condolences and to say that he meant no disrespect. Janes is quite savage towards Brown about the manner of her son’s death and tells him that he can’t understand how it is to lose a child under these circumstances.
Of course, in what is slightly uncomfortable about this is that Brown does indeed know what it is like to lose a child. In 2001 he lost his new born daughter, Jennifer Jane. Brown did not disclose this in the conversation.
I don’t have a problem with Mrs Janes laying her grief at the feet of her government and with Gordon Brown. She has to direct her anger and sadness somewhere, and he son worked for the government. Her son was in Afghanistan because of government decisions. And Mr Brown and the government need to share the burden of grief felt by the people of the country they serve.
But what I do find tasteless is the exploitation of that grief for political and financial gain. I’m not generally aware of the common practice of recording your phone calls when you are grieving the loss of your child. The conspiracy theorist inside me can’t help but wonder how much involvement The Sun has in all of this mess. The agenda to see the Labour party lose government seems to clearly outway the news worthiness of Gordon Brown’s letter to Mrs Janes.
Mrs Janes is no winner here. She will carry the grief of her loss the rest of her life.
Gordon Brown’s political image has taken another battering again, with many attacks on him personal. No winner there.
The Sun and Rupert Murdoch who have taken up Jacqui Janes story, on the other hand …
Why does journalism have to be a synomym for entertainment these days?
Fortunately there is now a backlash towards The Sun for exploiting a mother’s greif for purely political ends.