If you have been watching BBC news or reading the Guardian you would think that Brown’s testimony was proven and Rupert Murdoch had made up the whole claim about Brown “declaring war”. At the Leveson Inquiry Lord Mandelson was questioned about the “war” call from Gordon Brown to Rupert Murdoch. It is worth revisiting what he said in his sworn testimony:
Jay Okay. You say in your book that Mr Brown was stunned by the news that the Sun had shifted allegiance, and that this grew greater, as it were, over the forthcoming weeks. Was it your assessment that Mr Brown was personally embittered by this?
Mandelson I think he was greatly upset by it. I don’t think he should have been surprised, but he took these things very personally. Look, different politicians will take these things in different ways, and he did feel stung by it. He thought that after all that he had done as Prime Minister, all that he had done to deliver our economy from the greatest post-war crisis that we had seen, during which he felt that in respect of the banks, for example, he had received a lot of encouragement from Rupert Murdoch and Irwin Stelzer and other informed commentators, that it was sort of unfair in a sense for them to turn on him now. He also felt wronged over Afghanistan, with good reason, and I was very sympathetic to him, but he shouldn’t have taken it so personally. You know, this is politics. …
Jay You might be able to throw direct light on that belief by a piece of evidence. We heard from Mr Murdoch — and he said it twice, sitting where you are — that there was a telephone call between him and Mr Brown when Mr Brown delivered what was tantamount to —
Mandelson But the interesting thing about the phone call —
Jay Can I —
Mandelson — is Mr Murdoch himself said that he did not agree with the method and timing of what had been done.
Jay Yes, but we don’t know yet from your evidence whether you know whether there was such a call, and that was the question.
Mandelson Oh, I’m sorry.
Jay The allegation is — or rather the evidence was from Mr Murdoch — that Mr Brown said or uttered the words “declare war on News International” or words to that effect. From your own knowledge, Lord Mandelson, can you assist us as to whether there was such a call? …
Mandelson I assume that there was the call because I seem to remember the Prime Minister telling me that Rupert Murdoch was not at all happy with the method and timing of James and Rebekah’s action.
Jay What did the Prime Minister tell you, Lord Mandelson, about the call? Did he communicate to you that that’s what he told Mr Murdoch?
Mandelson No, he didn’t say that. He told me what Mr Murdoch had said to him.
Jay So there was nothing about what Mr Brown said to Mr Murdoch? Is that your evidence?
Mandelson Yes, it is. I cannot remember being told by Mr Brown what he said, and I have no way of knowing. But I — but I know what he said to me about Rupert Murdoch’s reaction, which was to say basically: “I don’t like how it’s been done and I think it’s a bad day to do it and I wouldn’t have done it this way myself, but that’s life and we have to get on with it.”
Jay Mr Murdoch’s reaction to what, though, Lord Mandelson?
Mandelson The decision of the Sun to switch support from New Labour to the Conservative Party, which he has said, if I recall correctly, was James and Rebekah’s decision. Not the editor’s, incidentally.
Jay Can you at least assist us with the timing of this call? We know that there was a later call relating to the letter to the mother of the soldier who died in Afghanistan. We’re talking about an earlier conversation, if it took place.
Mandelson There would have been a number of — I mean, Gordon did not hold back in talking to Rupert Murdoch. He did telephone him, he had every right to do so, and when he thought that he was being traduced, as he did, by the Sun, he wanted to give vent to his feelings about that. I mean, who can blame him in the circumstances? Personally, I think it is better to go to editors rather than proprietors, but he did have a good relationship with Rupert and he invoked that friendship.
Rupert Murdoch has just tweeted that he is not backing down:
Given that as well as denying making any such call, Gordon denied all knowledge of what Ed Balls, Charlie Whelan and Damian McBride did on his behalf, Guido knows who he believes...