Mandelson Attacks 'Politicking' Sun

Peter Mandelson has lambasted a tabloid for allegedly branding Labour the "enemy" of troops serving in Afghanistan.

The Sun switched its political allegiance to the Tory party during the Labour Party conference in September.

Lord Mandelson said stories "created" by the paper had attracted the attention of broadcasters. He told the BBC this had "implications" for the next election.

The Sun, which had supported Labour since 1997, said it was "immensely proud" of its coverage of the Afghan war.

This week, the tabloid printed a letter written by the Prime Minister to the mother of a fallen soldier.

Jacqui Janes, whose son Jamie was fatally wounded during fighting in Helmand province, claimed alleged minor inaccuracies contained in the correspondence were an "insult".

Gordon Brown apologised profusely, making it clear he did not intend to cause any offence.

He faced harsh criticism for his handwriting. Lord Mandelson said the Sun, who later printed the transcript of a conversation between Mr Brown and Mrs Janes, was party to "crude politicking".

He told BBC Radio 4: "If you look at the e-mails received overwhelmingly by the BBC, Sky News and the Sun itself from the public [about the Brown letter], they have clearly made up their minds about the Sun's mixture of bad taste and crude politicking.

"They have seen through it and they don't like it and they have said so."

He added: "If you read the Sun, you would think that the enemy that our brave troops on the ground are fighting is the British government.

"I mean, where do you see the reporting of our enemy, the Taliban, in Afghanistan?

Where do you see the reporting in the Sun of our forces' achievement and their bravery on the ground?

"I think that, actually, is the most significant aspect of all of this. And I think it's really unattractive."

Lord Mandelson suggested the Sun, owned by News International, had "effectively formed a contract" with the Tories.

"What the Sun can do for the Conservatives during the election is one part of the contract and, presumably, what the Conservatives can do for News International if they are elected is the other side of the bargain."

However, Lord Mandelson denied he was troubled by the matter, insisting "the public will be the judge".

He said his concern rested with Sky News, owned by News International, following up on Sun stories, thus putting pressure on BBC News to "follow suit".

A spokesman for the Sun said: "The Sun strongly refutes suggestions made this morning that the paper does not report our forces' achievements and their bravery.

"The Sun is the forces' paper and every day we report stories of heroism and bravery from the front line."

The spokesman added: "The Sun will continue to proudly support our servicemen and women, campaign for better equipment and continue to put pressure on politicians of all political parties to devote more time, effort and resources to the war in Afghanistan."

A source close to the Tory party claimed Lord Mandelson was "living in fantasy land again".


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