Monday, November 09, 2009

Brown Under Fire Over Letter to Soldier's Mother


Sky News are leading their bulletins with the story that Gordon Brown is being criticised for spelling errors in a letter he had written to the mother of a soldier who had been killed in Afghanistan. They have interviewed the lady reading out the letter and highlighting the errors. She clearly feels very upset and angry. This comes on top of the PM coming under fire for not bowing his head at the cenotaph yesterday.

The interview made for very uncomfortable viewing. It is easy to understand the mother's anger, but even his political opponents should tread very carefully before making political capital out of this. Gordon Brown has always had terrible handwriting. He writes in felt tip because of his lack of eyesight.

Yes, it's unforgiveable to get the lady's name wrong and to misspell her son's name, and I am sure the Prime Minister will acknowledge that. Some will say this provides yet another example of the Prime Minister's attitude to the armed forces. I prefer to believe - some will say naively - that the Prime Minister was probably dog tired when he wrote this letter and we should cut him some slack. No one can surely really believe that he intended to insult the soldier's memory.

UPDATE: I'm told that no one in Downing Street checks these letters before they are sent out, as Gordon Brown puts them in an envelope and seals them himself.

UPDATE: Downing Street has issued this statement on behalf of the PM...

I take very seriously my responsibility to the bereaved. Every time I write a letter to mothers and fathers and partners who have suffered bereavement to express my sincere condolences, it is a moment of personal sadness to me. And I am in awe of the bravery and sacrifice of the men and women of our armed forces. I send a handwritten letter to every family and I often write to more than one member of the family.

I have telephoned Jacqui Janes to apologise for any unintended mistake in the letter. To all other families whom I have written to, I can only apologise if my handwriting is difficult to read. I have at all times acted in good faith seeking to do the right thing. I do not think anyone will believe that I write letters with any intent to cause offence.

102 comments:

Paul Burgin said...

Thanks for that Iain. Speaking as a Labour Party member I have been irritated by the PM at times, but that said I am just disgusted with the sheer personal abuse that gets thrown at him in a way that I (and indeed some Labour Party activists) wouldn't throw at Margaret Thatcher out of common decency. I think that it is right for Downing Street to apologise to the mother, but equally I hope someone gently points out to her the reasons you have given.

sky said...

I think that's right. If he didn't care about the armed forces, he wouldn't be writing the letters in the first place.

In any walk of life, when things are going badly for you and you are under pressure, mistakes happen and things get worse.

Unsworth said...

It's not a question of 'intention' is it? It's more to do with the inability of someone who so prides himself on his grasp of detail to even get this right.

Brown simply has no idea of how to behave. Look at his previous social blunders - there are all too many. Strangely, his wife seems to have been unable to polish the turd.

Damon From Birmingham said...

I don't understand why the PM doesn't employ a Secretary? If he does I don't understand why he doesn't ask him/her to proof read all letters he sends?

This may show he's dog tired - it also shows he lacks basic managerial skills.

Matthew Cain said...

it's refreshing that you've taken this pragmatic position on a really tricky little story.

Kcila said...

Well said Ian. I have absolutely no time for Gordon Brown but this is not a political or anti-armed forces issue. Poor stuff from The Sun and Sky. All those chucking bricks at him this morning should analyse their own hand-writing skills before slagging off Brown who I am sure genuinely feels for every family of a dead soldier.

Lady Finchley said...

Yes, I thought it was a bit churlish of her. I was a bit taken aback not to see him bow at the Cenotaph but quite frankly he looked a nervous wreck. Very much missed seeing Lady T.

Plato said...

Sorry Iain but no. Sending a letter of condolence is a VERY important thing - it represents a huge message to the recipient. It should be something that you keep and treasure/reassure yourself that your son's death is truly felt and it was worth it.

One riddled with spelling mistakes and crossing-show says 'you show me no respect'.

If no one is making sure they are fit for purpose then either they are too scared to tell him or he puts them in the envelop and addresses them himself.

I think the former is more likely.

Jabba the Cat said...

"He writes in felt tip because of his lack of eyesight."

A perfect metaphor for his time in office.

Speaking as a voter and involuntary indebted citizen of this country, no quarter given and every little bit helps.

Sean Haffey said...

Agreed completely.

Speaking as someone who has rotten handwriting, I read Gordon's letter and thought "I might have read that". He's gone to the trouble of handwriting the letters, rather than top-and-tailing typed letters and has (as far as I can tell) been let down by his handwriting.

I think he's a dire PM, but this I am sure was neither malice nor incompetence but something entirely innocent.

Fausty said...

After what Brown has done to this country, he deserves no slack.

He needs to be beaten with every available stick so that when he falls, he will not rise again.

The latest government initiative? Why, send snoopers into family homes to check their smoke alarms are fitted correctly. What a load of codswallop. Any excuse to get more data on families into their database and have more people CRBed (the snoopers).

Despicable.

No. Brown deserves no mercy.

Tom said...

It's not a matter of intent, it's a matter of negligence. The lady is absolutely correct that, given Brown's poor eyesight and handwriting skills, the letter should have been typed. Given her son has just been killed I cannot imagine a more excruciating experience for her than having to struggle to read a letter of condolence (from a man loathed by many in the armed forces). It should also have been checked by someone else.

I agree that opponents should not make political capital out of this though.

bobthedog said...

No Iain, we pay the PM to get things right. The least he could do is have someone check his letter before sending it out (its not as if he doesnt have a staff there to do this).

It was he who made political capital out of writing the letters in a radio interview in Glasgow on Friday night while electioneering for the by election there.

It is his government that has sent men to fight in foreign lands, the least we can expect is that he gets things right in respect of the families of the fallen.

I believe that the writing of a condolence letter is something carried out by previous PM's from Maggie onwards. If they dont like the job (and I can imagine writing these letters is never going to be easy) they should stand down.

Dungeekin said...

The poor handwriting and felt-tip pen aren't the issue.

The lack of care is manifest not in his choice of writing implement, but in his lack of proof-reading.

If he genuinely respected the Fallen, he'd have the courtesy to ensure that the name was right.

Also - who in their right mind would consider a write-over in a personal letter of such import as acceptable? If a child made a mistake like that in a thank-you letter, a good parent would have them rewrite it. To leave that in a letter of condolence to a bereaved mother is a sign of total indifference.

He doesn't care. Full stop.

D

simon said...

Very sensible position, Iain. The Private Office should have checked this and stopped it going out.

Peter said...

Thoughtful comments on a difficult issue Iain. Kudos.

Paddy Briggs said...

Your last couple of sentences are 100% right Iain. Well said...

Roger Dodger said...

This is a fair post Iain. Well done for making it.

Let's face it though. If one wished to prove the lack of Labour sympathy and commitment to the armed forces over the years there are far more damning indictments than this.

bobthedog said...

Lady Finchley, Im so sorry you are offended by the churlishness of Mrs Janes, who after all has lost her son fighting for our country in Afghanistan.

If the guy in charge in No10 cant get something as straightforward as writing a letter (a task performed by previous PM's) to the family of the fallen, what else is he failing to observe, the banking crisis perhaps?

Its called attention to detail, something HM Forces do every day, we should expect the same from the PM when involving himself in such sensitive matters.

No quarter given to him from me.

kris said...

Are you kidding me?

It's sloppy, unprofessional and careless.

"Dog tired"?!

Imagine what the soldiers are.

f£$%s sakes.

DiscoveredJoys said...

A very balanced and sound blog Iain.

On the other hand, you could look at the criticism as (some form of) democracy in action.

Ordinary people feel that there is no way they can affect events or rely on their representatives to do a good job. Sarcasm, outrage, criticism, name-calling, that's all that's left to them.

I find it difficult to believe that after so many unforced errors and acts of incompetence New Labour, and specifically Gordon Brown, have decided to hang onto power and not chosen to go to the the country. I can't do anything to bring the date of the next General Election any closer. I was denied the promise of a referendum. I am frightened by the spread of authoritarianism in national and local government. I'm sure others feel the same way.

Where is Spitting Image when you need it? It seems strange that political satire is not flourishing when the people in power are so po-faced, right on, and useless. And they tell lies too.

In the mean time I guess we will just have to criticise those who hold us in contempt.

The Boiling Frog said...

I agree Iain. I would like nothing better than Brown not to be PM but the 'hounding' of him over this seems to me to be rather unpleasant.

We all know he has bad eyesight, and his letter of 'apology' to Nadine Dorries proves that he has terrible handwriting and spelling skills.

I can understand the mother's anger, but Brown (who must be a very busy man) took time out to personally write to a grieving mother, and considering that he knows full well himself what it's like to lose a child, no malice is surely intended.

Johnny Norfolk said...

He never even bowed his head in respect at The Cenotaph. He either forgot or does not bow hid head to anyone. Whatever the reason it is a disgrace from the PM.

VotR said...

It's too easy to target Brown over this, Iain. But a word processor and a spell checker might be advisable for him next time. People have problems with change, but we cannot avoid being dragged into the 21st century, prime minister.

The sentiment was noble, but the result has left a stain over a time meant for remorse and grief.

Johnny Norfolk said...

I have had to write such letters in the past. Because my hanwriting is poor and my spelling is even worse. I used to print them out by hand and had a typist check them and type them.

When you have a problem like this its what you do. I did not want to but knew it was the right thing to do.I am now even more certain.

Kitchen said...

I agree Iain, well said.

This may tell us about his management style or lack of support from his staff but I do not think it tells me anything about his sincerity. I feel slightly uncomfortable about how or why this became public.

The not bowing at the Cenotaph was crass and less forgiveable.

NB Lady Finchley, Lady T was there, not sure which news station I was watching but they showed her standing on one of the balcony's.

Mark Fulford said...

Please don’t try to excuse the man, it was downright carelessness and thoughtlessness. In a letter to the dead boy’s mum, he crossed out a spelling mistake in the boy’s name rather than start again. I’m sorry, it make me furious.

adam1516 said...

Everything Brown touches turns to the..well, brown stuff.

I don't think I've ever seen a politician - let alone a PM - so maligned. Saying that, Brown has brought much of the disdain on himself.

I don't buy this nonsense that Brown is somehow a victim of a vicious media and public. He is a deeply tribalistic politican - and deep-rooted cynicism dictates everything he does.

In my view, he thoroughly deserves the contempt he receives - and everyone knows he secretly despises the Armed Forces - as do all Lefties, at least in private.

What do Brown and his ilk have in common with the Armed Forces? Precisely nothing.

Nothing Brown does or says surprises me anymore - he has no self-respect, let alone respect from the public.

jojoko said...

Sloppiness, probably caused because he was tired and hurrying. Afrid those are not valid excuses. He has staff who could have assistedhim, the country is paying a fortune for them so perhaps they could be put to some use other than election assistance and planting false emails. I have no sympathy for him. As for Mrs. Janes being churlish wtf?

Part Monkey said...

I agree with you, I don't think he intended to insult the woman, or the memory of her son.

However, these letters are not just notes to be knocked up in a spare moment. They should be a symbol of the nation's sincere gratitude for the service and sacrifice of a fallen soldier. As a result, time, care and attention should rightly be taken to ensure that whoever writes them, gets it right.

On first inspection, it looks like the work of someone who views this solemn task as a chore, to be completed as quickly as possible.

I also agree with the bloggers here who write that Brown should be on the receiving end of every brickbat and negative comment possible. He's been a catastrophe and as such, sentimentality shouldn't come into it.

Man in a Shed said...

The problem is the one you identified at the end Iain, no one checks.

Its the same problem that humiliated him at the G20 finance minster meeting - where surely civil servants should have sounded out other governments before allowing the UK Prime Minister to humiliate himself and the country with a policy overwhelmingly rejected - and clearly very much against UK interests !

titus-aduxas said...

Brown is aware of his visual shortcomings. He should have had a secretary type the letter. She should have stuck a post-it on with the recipient's name and that of the dead soldier. A space should have been left between the letter text and the signature for a few hand-written words.

After the signature, a PS, explaining the reason for the typing instead of handwriting.

That would be the best way, with little or no room for sloppiness or error and even more relevant if he were "dog-tired".

Sorry, but, in his position as PM, those sort of mistakes are unacceptable.

Robert said...

Damned if he does and damned if he doesn't.

More interesting is his actual handwriting which could have been done by an eight year old. A psychologist could have a few comments on the handwriting and spelling mistakes.

A better blog than the peevish attack on the Eurosceptics who will not be voting Conservative at the next election. We will get over it. Will Cameron? Will you?

Myopic Pete said...

Sorry Iain, I think most people can excuse poor handwriting and the use of a felt tip given his much publicised poor eyesight.

I am sure than most sane, educated people when writing a letter of such importance realised they had made a mistake would have screwed it up and started again. How it is acceptable to correct it by writing over the top, especially as it was the soldier's name?

If the excuse is that he is "dog tired" and overworked perhaps he should stop trying to save the world and concentrate on running this country. The man is a disgrace!

Stepney said...

I agree with your sentiments up to a point.

But...

These letters are profoundly important. Think about it.

These are personal missives from the Prime Minister of Great Britain to those recently bereaved of sons and husbands who've died for their country. Just how important can you get? These are not letters to be dashed off when you're tired or busy. How would you feel if you were the recipient of such a message that was messy, illegible and incoherent? What would that say to you?

Surely, in the name of all that is holy, that is enough for someone to make sure they are coherent and proofed?

I understand his disability but surely he should understand the importance of these letters to the recipients?

The Boiling Frog said...

Actually I've just had a chance to read the letter properly, and I've slightly changed my view away from my more sympathetic stance in my previous comment.

I've just spotted that he tried change his spelling error of the poor chap's name, rather than start again.

Oh dear

Rebel Saint said...

I'm a premier division Brown/Liebour despiser ... but this a below-the-belt story.

For the 1st time ever, I felt a tiny bit of sympathy for Brown. It will have passed by the evening thankfully.

My loathing of the Sun has - and will remain - constant.

Dungeekin said...

No doubt he'll announce a new education package to improve national literacy. . .

D

Salmondnet said...

For the first time ever I feel some sympathy for Brown. Much as I want to see him and all his party booted permanently out of office, for a one-eyed man who was, for once, trying to be human, albeit incompetently, this looks like one kick too many.

That said, I can understand the soldiers mother lashing out. Just one more example of the principe that no good deed ever goes unpunished.

eddie said...

No doubt next week the airwaves will be full of disgusted people complaining that Brown's letters have been printed off on a computer and are impersonal.

Steve H said...

Problem is that, if Bordon Brown had had the letter typed, the mother could just as well have been telling the media that she was offended that the PM couldn't be bothered to write his own letters. I doubt that the mother truly cares that the letter contained spelling mistakes. It seems more likely that she's angry at the war and the death of her son and this is her way of expressing it.

Can't blame her after her son has been killed. It's the media editors making hay of the issue who need horsewhipping on the steps of their clubs (if any club would admit them).

Cynic said...

Whatever one thinks it really is a shambolic way to run a country

Chris Paul said...

Did Blair hand-write letters to relatives? Did John Major? Did Thatcher?

This is an immensely time consuming process for any politician who chooses to do it. He hand-wrote his apology to Nadine Dorries MP and very ungraciously and idiotically even she rushed straight off to a charlatan graphologist who found "nothing to look at here" and splurged all this over her favourite newspaper.

But all things being equal a hand-written letter is much more fitting. I'd be interested to know how many drafts with errors end up in the bin. And how many hand-written letters in all are sent out by Mr Brown.

I think there is a good case for either employing an emanuensis or switching to typescript. Real type-script. At least it would make sense for a proof reader to be involved IMO.

Sky News and Murdoch's Sun are of course insensitive Tools on this as most everything else. One of them even tweeted something suggesting it was "badly written", carelessly suggesting grammar or syntax issues.

Steve H said...

Problem is that, if Bordon Brown had had the letter typed, the mother could just as well have been telling the media that she was offended that the PM couldn't be bothered to write his own letters. I doubt that the mother truly cares that the letter contained spelling mistakes. It seems more likely that she's angry at the war and the death of her son and this is her way of expressing it.

Can't blame her after her son has been killed. It's the media editors making hay of the issue who need horsewhipping on the steps of their clubs (if any club would admit them).

vervet said...

Doesn't matter whether this was the result of tiredness, carelessness, ignorance, arrogance, disrespect, poor eyesight, stress, or any other reason you can offer. It is the work of a man who is demonstrably not competent to lead this country. Cut him no slack ... tell him to go. Any other response shows a traitorous disregard for the good of this country.

The Purpleline said...

Iain, how can we cut this buffoon slack, are your really being serious that we should forgive someone because they may have a disability.

Surely, Nu Labours doctrine has been, there is no difference between, races or people with special needs.

Now to give him a free ride on this only creates the 'I told you so' that all potential employers and educational chiefs will have when dealing with Black ethnic boys that cannot write or read and invalids.

What is wrong with his wife, writing a personal note on behalf of the Brown family, cannot lead us. It is not Rocket science.

The fact he writes and puts the letter in a closed envelope, only comes back to his control freakery and the poor saps at Downing Street who are too scared to approach him, due to his uncontrollable rage.

The man is a disgrace, as a monarchist, I am beside myself with rage; the Queen is to blame for allowing this walking disaster of a man and his party to retain power.

PoliticalHack said...

Rarely do I agree with you, Iain, but you are spot on the money here. He hand-writes the letters - which is no mean feat of determination for a man with poor eyesight and they aren't checked off by a spin doctor. That shows respect towards the families of those who have given their lives for this country. The Sun have sunk appallingly low to use the death of a soldier and a son solely to wind up a story attacking the PM. Well, they are Dave's mates now and he'll bear the brunt of it when the Sun decides to back the next big thing.

Scan said...

I'm sure he was dog tired in the back of his well armoured limouzine...protected by a dozen special agents...on his way to his luxurious, warm, home...after a hard day of finding new ways of swindling money out of the population...while being worried sick which piece of propaganda will be seen through the next day.

This isn't about his handwriting, this is the first genuine insight to his mentality and persona. Even if he didn't realise the spelling was wrong, you don't cross things out and send the same piece of paper - you think that you're writing a letter to a mother whose lost her son in a war you personally wrote the cheques for and now wholeheartedly support - and you start again. Brown hows a complete genuine lack of empathy and humanity. It also shows the complete lack of interest in reality of...well...everything. It shows he sees things as merely events, something to make a note of in passing. The letter shows he has no grasp of the gravity of his decisions and no grasp of consequence.

I think this, more than anything before, shows what previous whisperings have alluded to. It shows he has never been mentally capable to carry out any job that has a direct influence on people's lives.

Richard Holloway said...

I remember back in my uni days as editor of the student rag being chastised for daring to criticise the spelling and grammar errors of an election candidate's manifesto. "He's dyslexic" the cry went up. I'm afraid that then - as now - there is no excuse. If you are bad at something, get someone to help you. In this case get someone to check what you've written. It's called professionalism. A good leader knows their weaknesses and puts in place measures to mitigate them.

Oh and Paul Burgin's complaint that the level of personal abuse directed at Brown (as horrid as it is) wouldn't be thrown at Thatcher is absolute rubbish. I don't seem to recall ever hearing Conservatives planning a party to celebrate Brown's death. I direct you to this story sir, which is quite sickening. http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23665546-no-qualms-author-defends-play-revelling-in-death-of-thatcher.do#

freddo41 said...

It's not a laughing matter but it reminds me of this line from Catch 22: Dear Mrs, Mr, Miss, or Mr and Mrs Daneeka: Words cannot express the deep personal grief I experienced when your husband, son, father or brother was killed, wounded or reported missing in action.

MikeyP said...

Sorry, Iain, but I do not think you can cut the incompetent idiot any slack. The cynic in me suggests he is only writing personal letters of condolence as a publicity stunt, and he even bogs that up!

titus-aduxas said...

Brown could easily have the letter typed and as a PS hand-write his reason - i.e. his writing is appalling and he wanted her to be able to read his condolences.

No-one could argue with that.

brian said...

I can accept the handwriting problem and being dog tired - but about the 'dog tired' bit - this is a man who is making momentous decisions. We all know he is slow to come to a decision - but being very tired and the requirement to make intelligent decisions quickly is a seious must be a very serious matter for this country.

james.bottomley said...

The Sun has gone too far and this will backfire on the Murdoch-inspired anti-Brown campaign as people think about this and take a view.

Murdoch is primarily attacking New Labour and supporting Cameron because News International believes that Cameron is more likely to continue their tax-free arrangements for the UK, in which NI pays not one penny of tax despite very large profits here. Brown has shown willingness to support the EU anti-tax haven agenda.

Hawkeye said...

A man in Brown's position needs people to backstop him, manage him and help him. He should dictate the letter to a PA who can then type it up and get him to sign it. At the very least nothing should ever leave his desk without being checked.

The Prime Minister never does anything trivial - it is the job. Only the important stuff should cross the PM's desk. Brown needs to realise that. Letters to the families, although personal, need checking. That is what is staff are for.

His grasp of management is truly appalling.

Pete said...

For me it is this that is the crux of the matter:

"Also - who in their right mind would consider a write-over in a personal letter of such import as acceptable? If a child made a mistake like that in a thank-you letter, a good parent would have them rewrite it. To leave that in a letter of condolence to a bereaved mother is a sign of total indifference"

I have appalling handwriting and it's a cause of much frustration, however even if I'm writing one of many generic Christmas cards, should I make a mistake with someone's name the answer is to bin the card and start again, not to scrawl over the top of it. To consider that, even for a split second, it went through Brown's head to think either it didn't matter or no one would notice is attrocious. I don't care how tired he was or how good he is in writing these individually. If he isn't going to put the necessary time in to get them right he would be a lot better off having them written for him and he would then sign them. I would have been livid if I had lost a relative of mine and received this half assed attempt at empathy through the post.

Cath said...

I agree Iain and actually wonder if this will help Brown in a way.

norman said...

He telephones all and sundry, Susan Boyle, Simon Cowell etc.. He could have taken 5 mins to give the poor woman a call. I am not sympathetic to this man. The Labour supporters give so many excuses. This shows it is time for the voters to show them the door.

moorlandhunter said...

To Paul Burgin

Labour activists have never derided Maggie Thatcher in a similar manner? Are you joking or taking the P? Labour keep at their very heart of their beliefs that the worlds troubles should be laid at her step and many vitriolic and downright nasty comments have been made about her and her family by Labour supporters even to the present day, so it’s a bit rich now the people are turning on Brown and Labour. Labour and their supporters have always been the nasty party even joking when Maggie thought her son had died.
Brown made a cock up over his letter and it should have been proof read before being sent. As for bad handwriting, many of us have long hand scrawl similar to a spider crossing a page after dipping its legs in an ink well.
Brown and Labour are a disaster for this country.

tapestry said...

Being British is so sad at the moment. Let's hope we can do better.

Jimmy said...

"Brown simply has no idea of how to behave."

Apparently not the only one.

"Strangely, his wife seems to have been unable to polish the turd."

I take it Mrs. Unsworth was busy.

Iain, it was nice to see a decent and thoughtful post amid the spiteful histrionics that others have chosen to write on the topic.

tankus said...

No quarter given from me either...

Can't manage his own office , small wonder about the country..

neil craig said...

This is a non-story except insofar as it is a story about the Sun going OTT in its newfound opposition to Labour.

Is there anybody here who doesn't make regular minor spelling errors in handwriting? If anything it just proves Brown really does write them. We already knew he had called Jade Goody "Jane" - so what.

Thomas said...

Surely the issue here is Brown's lack of foresight and his poor sense of priorities.
It probably occurred to him when the first soldiers died that handwritten condolence letters would be an easy way to look sincere and human.
However, he didn't foresee that so many soldiers would die, but if he stops now, he will be slaughtered by the media ("Brown doesn't care any more"), and therefore he has to continue, even if he really doesn't have the time to write that many letters.
However, he ought to either dedicate the time needed to do it right, or find another way to express his feelings.
Instead, he just does a hurried and half-hearted job, which pleases no-one.

Edward Sutherland said...

Iain, you're right-to go for the PM on this is pretty despicable, and I'm no admirer of his.

JuliaM said...

"I'm told that no one in Downing Street checks these letters before they are sent out, as Gordon Brown puts them in an envelope and seals them himself."

So, unless he uses one of those wet-roller thingies, there's a handy source of DNA.

Should anyone need it to..well, show up the uselessness of the DNA Database, perhaps? ;)

Twig said...

He is the devalued prime minister of a devalued country.

He has taken the Great out of Great Britain.

We need to change the way our system works to avoid ever having another unelected leader.

pegboard said...

I don't agree with Mr Brown's policies or party, but I think here he was trying to be genuinely contrite. He could have done nothing. Personally, I commend him. Hand writing aside (have you seen that of Doctors?) the value is in meaning to do the right thing in an impossible situation.

Rik said...

Baring in mind everything that you have said for the reasons behind the delivery of a letter such as this and the importance that a letter such as this has, surely it would have been prudent of the PM to ensure that a proof reading was performed before it went out! This is a basic management oversight and it is this that should be questioned!

kenny murphy said...

I don't think anyone would seriously suggest that Gordon Brown will not be feeling terrible about all of this. It's not his fault he has such poor handwriting because of his poor eyesight.

However, i find it amazing that within this environment of all these advisers not one person checks over his letters before he puts it in the envelope and seals it.

Perhaps if more priority was given to areas such as this rather than planning and orchestrating vile dodgy emails things might not be in such a sorry state?

A fed up Labour voter.

JuliaM said...

Neil Craig: "Is there anybody here who doesn't make regular minor spelling errors in handwriting?"

All the time.

But would I send that sort of letter out without ensuring it was perfect. No. Never.

canvas said...

I think Gordon Brown needs to get his 'support staff' to start supporting. Brown can hardly see - so I think it's unfair to attack him for this mortifying mistake.

It's a really ghastly mistake to make - but no fair minded person could rightly accuse Gordon Brown of not caring.

I understand the mother is feeling emotional ...and perhaps she is focusing all of her anger on to Gordon Brown because it makes her feel a little better? if she can feel better...

LancashireCat said...

He could easily delegate the writing of letters to a secretary. That he writes them himself says much about the man. It was a simple error that anyone could make and surely the good intention is what matters. It is regrettable that the matter has been publicised and that our news media have no better judgement than to make a big issue out of it.I don't think publicising his error is going to help the grieving mother nor do I think it refelects well upon her.

Paul Halsall said...

A good hearted blogpost, Iain.

JMB said...

I was surprised that no one checks the letters before they are sent out. Apart from things like the spelling mistakes I would have expected a final check with the MOD that the letter is sent to the right person.

brian said...

Please read carefully the following extract from the Independent today regarding Brown's letter. If true it is scarcely to be believed. Apart from the 'unwillingly' rather than 'unwittingly' presumably he simply just cannot admit a mistake - it shockingly states that the reader misread it. It is paranoia.

'The Prime Minister's statement was issued after Downing Street came under pressure to make clear whether he accepted a mistake had been made.

"He has unwillingly, in writing a letter, caused this offence. Of course he is sorry for that.

"The hand-written letter clearly contains mistakes on the basis that the person who received it has misread those words," his spokesman told reporters.'

Ann said...

It is very sad - and I almost felt sorry for Brown over this. However, it illustrates his complete lack of political judgement in two ways. The first, if you do something like this, get it right - get someone, Sara even to proof read it for you.
Second, it shows how foolish the NULab reaction was when the Sun offered a less than whole hearted endorsement of David cameron. They should have gritted their teeth and made an obsequious statement saying they believed the Sun was mistaken but they would do their damnedest to win back the Sun's trust. Instead they threw a hissy fit and Mandy called News International's great and good (assuming there are such beasts) c***s.
Since then the Sun has gone into attack mode and this is the latest example of it. It's not pretty and I do have sympathy for Brown here but he is paying the price of his own party's bad judgement here.

Savonarola said...

Sloppy letter, sloppy writing and a sloppy attitude.

That apart he has never attended a funeral, underequipped the forces to exact retribution on Blair, appointed Ainsworth to display contempt for position of Defence Secretary and has cosied up to forces only since becoming PM. He and Foot's performances at Cenotaph show where they are coming from.

The Butcher's Blood continues to flow. No wonder Brown's arm is tired and his soul black from having to write the letters. He thought it would be one or two.

What a shambles. What a wretched example of leadership by a wretched man.

Get out.

Steve Horgan said...

Lack of intent certainly, but the letter was still a disgrace. It should have been right, and not added to that poor, bereaved mother's grief.

The Grim Reaper said...

In two thoughts about this one. On the one hand, these are some very stupid mistakes he's made on this letter. On the other, it's not the end of the world. And at least he is actually trying to write these letters. Blair never wrote to any of them, nor did Major.

As for the video on The Sun's website of the grieving mother, it has all the hallmarks of a woman who has been manipulated by media hacks with an agenda.

lilith said...

Sky may have been leading with the bereaved mother's hurt, but the BBC led with Gordon Brown's apology.

He telephoned her to apologize. He should write to her again. You can't frame and hang a telephone call.

JPT said...

I feel that this story has somewhat backfired. I think people now feel sorry for Mr Brown. You wouldn't have believed it a few days ago - rather like the Question time shambles that amazingly had many people (unprecedented) actually feeling sorry for Nick Griffin.

Doubting Richard said...

At least he writes the letter personally, and in fact not getting it checked is a sign of personal connection. I suspect that is more important to the relatives than the mistakes for which he has apologised. I will not say a lot good about Gordon Brown, but credit him here.

King Athelstan said...

I don't think anybody can be in any doubt as to my utter loathing for the man, however I am deeply uncomfortable with the criticism levelled at him here. (Particularly as my handwriting was once dscribed as resembling a poker dipped in tar.) One new experience I don't need is feeling sorry for Gordon Brown.

Mrs R said...

No, he was wrong and there should be no excuse. The letter should have been perfect, he and his representatives should not blame the recipient.

There have been attempts to score political points, claiming no previous Prime Ministers have written such letters, and now perhaps we know why. Why does he think it's part of his job, along with writing to winners of X-Factor? He doesn't show any other emotion in relation to the armed forces, and has always kept them short of funding.

Mr Brown is Prime Minister, every thing he does is a reflection of Britain as a whole.

If he's a nervous wreck, as some people say is a fair excuse for his mistakes, then he should stand down - because we don't need a nervous wreck in charge of our government

trevorsden said...

Conservatives are entitled to think what they like about this episode but otherwise they should stay out of it and keep quiet.

agower said...

If I was applying for a vacancy, I would make sure my spelling and all the relevant information was correct.

I would like to think that if I was in the unfortunate position of writing a letter of condolence, I would be even more careful.

Londonerr said...

Cut him some slack? No way Iain. This is a shabby letter from a shabby PM.

He's a disgraceful leader of our country and continually heaps shame upon us.

Roll on a change of regime.

Oh, I hear he'll continue writing condolence letters in his own hand, what a fool.

Terry Hamblin said...

The poor man is maladroit. One feels sorry for him. I shudder to think how I would feel had I done something similar, which I could well have. However, I am not P.M. and he is badly placed in the post.

killemallletgodsortemout said...

Scrawl, and balls up a letter?

The man's a disgrace - a five year-old could do better.

The man is a complete prat.

Rather than send this crap to grieving relatives, he should be in front of them on his knees, begging for forgiveness.

Tom said...

Mandelson this afternoon used this as an opportunity to attack the Sun, proving once and for all that Labour has no shame.

King Athelstan said...

@trevorsden, many people have defended Brown here whatever their feelings about him, thanks for making the kind of remark that reminds us why we have come to despise the labour party.

peter_dtm said...

I am sorry; but he is only the Prime Minister; why is he writing these letters; no other PM in history has done this.

If any one should write it should be HM Queen Elizabeth to whom the armed forces swear their oath of allegiance; not some politician.

He needs the same lesson Blair needs = the Prime Minister of Britain is just another subject not a President.

I am as horrified by this posturing of a power crazed government as I am by the arogance shown in his response to the very valid criticism

dg.petch said...

He only writes letters, so he doesn't have to show his face when the body bags are flown home.

If he got my son's name wrong, after sending him ill equipped to die, I'd kick his arse from here to Fife and poke a stick in his one remaining eye for good measure.

Patrick said...

Attention to detail is another basic skill which the PM does not seem to possess.

ThomsonAS100 said...

Good post.

Raw grief from the soldier's family is understandable - but the behaviour of the Sun is tabloid journalism at its dynical, snide worst.
Nasty.

superted said...

All those criticising Brown:

Brown could choose to get an aide to type up impersonal word processed letters and just sign a pile of papers before they go out.

Instead, he chooses to compose an individual letter to those who have suffered loss, which I think is admirable even if you disagree with his management of the country.

I can't believe the vitriol aimed at him for his poor handwriting- he's blind in one eye for goodness sake. Same old nastiness.

I hope The Sun compensated the lady who lost her son well for being a pawn in their increasingly nasty personal campaign against the PM. Shame on them.

And well done Iain on having the decency not to stoop to this level, passing up the opportunity to join the outrage and make political capital out of this. You have gone up in my estimation.

John Hall said...

I am amazed at the depths that the Sun and the Tory party supporters have gone too to call Gordon Brown over this matter ,I'm so glad that I am not and never will be associated with them . It just goes to show how desperate to get rid of this Government they are, and will seize on any situation no matter how despicable as using a Soldiers Death and a Mothers Grief to further their own ends, surely much worse than the P.M.'S personally written letter to the Mother, no matter how bad the writing and the mistakes in the letter . What I have been trying to find out ,unsuccessfully ,was when this letter was sent,it seems some while since this Young Man lost his Life ,and I would have thought such a letter would have been sent straight away . Does anyone Know these details?

Cynic said...

http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/campaigns/our_boys/2722174/Mum-Jacqui-Janes-at-war-PM-is-humbled.html

Oh dear...the Sun taped his call and it isn't quite as Downing Street said. They sort of left out the other half of the conversation where the mother complained that he son bled to death because of a lack of Casevac helicopters. Gordo denied the troops were under-equipped.

Strange that the PMs press release didn't mention that

Jules said...

much as i despise gordon brown, i was prepared to give our worst-ever prime minister the b of the d on this. until i listened to the sun's extraordinary call transcript and heard him wriggling on the hook, being comprehensively kebabbed time and time again by a grieving but well-informed service mum.

he's a disgrace to his party, his office and has got to go. and soon.

titus-aduxas said...

"Brown could choose to get an aide to type up impersonal word processed letters and just sign a pile of papers before they go out."
He could, also have a letter, transcribed from a dictating machine, minus "Dear.." and with a large space between the text and signature. Brown then adds "Dear...." in his own handwriting and, in the space, he writes his reason for the letter having been typed - he wanted to make sure that his sentiments could be clearly read.

"Instead, he chooses to compose an individual letter to those who have suffered loss, which I think is admirable even if you disagree with his management of the country.
The individual letter could have been written, without errors and with the correct names.

"I can't believe the vitriol aimed at him for his poor handwriting- he's blind in one eye for goodness sake. Same old nastiness.
I had a friend, who was also blind in one eye. His writing was streets ahead of Brown's - and he didn't harp on about his blindness.

"I hope The Sun compensated the lady who lost her son well for being a pawn in their increasingly nasty personal campaign against the PM. Shame on them."

As I understand it, she was not paid a penny. She was simply distraught and very, very angry.

Alfred of Wessex said...

The likes of Peter Mandelson, Alistair Campbell, Jo Moore, "Dolly" Draper, and hundreds of other Special Advisors have spent the last 11 years living the high life spending TAXPAYERS' money to control the News Media and ensure that their Cultural Marxist lies and half-truths ("Narrative") dominate the headlines peddled by the Lamestream Media, and have been utterly ruthless in defaming and destroying the reputations and character of anyone great or small who has the temerity to insist that something as insignificant as the truth should interfere with their hegemony.

They even have a "rapid rebuttal unit" whose staff monitor and post responses on blogs such as your own.

And to cap it all, "Lord Voldemort" is apparently to be put in charge of a new "Ministry of Information" (Minitrue from Nineteen Eighty-Four?) in the run-up to the General Election!

Remember that to Mandelson et al, the death of 3000 civilians on 9/11 was merely an opportunity to be exploited ("a good day to bury bad news").

Well, they have sowed the wind, now they are reaping the whirlwind!