It’s interesting that in a week where allegations of phone-tapping have been dogging the tabloid press, one of their members is quite happy to transcribe the results from one on their front page. I’m referring of course to the Sun’s current cynical attempts to exploit a mother’s grief for their own political and monetary gain.
For those who have missed the story, we discovered yesterday that the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, personally writes a letter of condolence to the families of all those soldiers who die in combat. A generous and caring act you’d think, particularly in the past many grieving families would have merely received a type-written letter from the service concerned. Apparently however, the letter received by mother of serviceman Jamie Janes last week was an ‘insult‘ to her son’s memory as the PM’s handwriting leaves something to be desired. Gordon Brown as is well reported does suffer with problems with his eyesight which affects his handwriting. The fact that he still wanted to write personally to the families of servicemen should be to his credit, not used to criticize him.
Now, before I go any further, Mrs Janes has my every sympathy and nothing that anyone can say is going to mitigate her sadness at the loss of her son. When you are grieving there is a natural instinct to try and find someone to blame but it’s normally left to your friends and relations to comfort you, not for your statements to be broadcast across the nation. Mrs Janes is clearly very upset and angry, but it does neither her, her son, or the rest of the country any benefit to base policies on the feelings of one upset woman. To exploit her grief to sell newspapers and to attack the Prime Minister is, in my opinion, low, even by the standards of the Sun. To then extend the story over two days and take an illegally recorded telephone conversation and host it on their website is cynical and manipulative in the extreme.
Servicemen enter the armed forces knowing that there is a risk of injury or death in what they do. The fact that they still sign-up willingly to serve is to their great credit, but sadly in any war there will always be casualties. It does seem in this particular case that Guardsman Janes was picked up by a helicopter, but died on the way to hospital from his wounds. Tragic, but it does seem that in this particular case, all that could have been done, was done.
I am also disappointed that Gordon Brown feels that he has to schedule an enquiry to investigate the circumstances around Guardsman Janes’ death. Unless this is routinely done for the deaths of any British servicemen, scheduling one to try and deflect the attentions of the Sun is yet another knee-jerk reaction. Representational democracy exists to provide a stabilizing influence on the fickle wishes of the mob. If all they do is respond to the demagoguery of the tabloid press, then you wonder why there are there at all.