Lawyers representing former prime minister Gordon Brown have written to the Leveson Inquiry denying that he had threatened to ‘destroy’Rupert Murdoch.
The letter was sent in response to evidence given to the inquiry by former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie on 9 January.
He alleged that around the time of the Labour Party conference in September 2009 Brown called Murdoch on the phone. The alleged call happened after the Sun withdrew its backing from Labour with a front page story published the day after Brown’s keynote conference speech.
MacKenzie said: ‘That night a furious Brown called Murdoch and, in Rupert’s words, ‘roared at me for 20 minutes’.”
MacKenzie said that Murdoch himself was the source for this story.
MacKenzie said: ‘At the end, Brown said, ‘You’re trying to destroy me and my party, I will destroy you and your company.'”
Brown’s lawyers said: ‘The story is completely untrue. It is important that it does not become accepted as a fact. A respected national newspaper has already raised it as if it were a fact in the course of a PCC investigation of a complaint made by Mr Brown (which was upheld).”
Brown’s lawyers said: ‘Mr Brown has a clear recollection of the calls he had with Mr Murdoch when he was Prime Minister. He had no such conversation with Mr Murdoch at any time during the conference. Thus, the words attributed to him by Mr MacKenzie were not said by him to Mr Murdoch, and the statement attributed to Mr Murdoch by Mr MacKenzie is factually wrong.”
They noted that the statement was not tested ‘as to its reliability or credibility in the inquiry. Yet the press reported it, and that evidence, substantially – as fact.”
The PCC ruled in November that the Sunday Telegraph breached clause one of the Editors’ Code (accuracy) because it presented a contentious anecdote as fact and the paper should have gone to Brown for comment in advance of publication. But it did not censure the paper because it said an offer to publish a clarification provided sufficient remedial action, even though Brown said it did not go far enough.