those at News International who took the freedom of the press as a licence for abuse, who cynically manipulated our support of that vital freedom as their justification, and who then callously used the defence of a free press as the banner under which they marched in step, as I say, with members of the criminal underworld.Fair comment and it is impossible not to have sympathy for Gordon and Sarah Brown over the disgusting way that the Sun exposed their son's illness.
But as Matthew d'Ancona shows in the Evening Standard tonight, the Browns' behaviour in the light of this criminality and callousness was quite bizarre:
Flick through the pages of Sarah Brown's memoir, Behind the Black Door, and, time after time, you come across warm mentions of the Murdoch family and of Rebekah Wade. A few examples: in October 2007, less than a year after the Sun's story about Fraser, Rupert and Wendi Murdoch are visiting Chequers - with the result that, instead of speaking live on Sunday, Gordon pre-records his interview with Andrew Marr announcing that there will be no snap general election. Elsewhere in the book, Murdoch is "a very solicitous host and very touching in the affection he shows for Wendi". Mrs Murdoch, for her part, is thanked in the book's Acknowledgments.As d'Ancona suggests, the answer is not straightforward hypocrisy but something closer to Orwellian "doublethink": "to survive and prosper, politicians and, by extension, their spouses, often have to accept and believe directly contradictory propositions".
In June 2008, she "comes to Chequers with a group of mutual girlfriends. It is a girls-only night and we have the excuse of celebrating Wendi's upcoming fortieth birthday. The guest list includes Emma Freud, Shriti Vadera, Claudia Winkelman and Kirsty Young, as well as Elisabeth Murdoch and Rebekah Wade, who both have fortieths to celebrate, too….. ….It turns out that Rebekah has sent a platter of gourmet cheese and booked the guy who sold her the cheese as he happened to be an out-of-work magician."
Still, as Nick Clegg said earlier today, you sensed a whiff of history being rewritten in Brown's speech. He would have liked to be the brave loner who stood up to Murdoch's newspapers, but the reality was very different.