Solemn Brown stresses personal grief

By Alex Stevenson

Gordon Brown struck a sombre, personal tone in his monthly press conference, as he avoided directly admitting he had spelled the name of a fallen soldier incorrectly.

The prime minister said he had apologised to Jacqui Janes and expressed regret that his writing was “difficult to read”, after the mother of Guardsman Jamie Jones complained that he had misspelled her surnamed ‘James’.

The closest he came to admitting he had spelled the name incorrectly was when he said: “I apologised to Jacqui Janes yesterday for any mistakes I have made.”

At one stage Mr Brown appeared to be close to tears as he related his own sense of loss to that of those of bereaved military families.

“I said I was sorry if any offence had been caused,” the prime minister said.

“I wanted her to understand that when I send these letters – and I send a letter to every family who suffers a bereavement – I think very carefully about what I say and I’m sure the words I was using, even if she had found them difficult to read which I understand because of my writing, were sincerely meant.

“The last thing on my mind was to cause any offence to Jacqui Janes and I think people know me well enough to know it would never be my attention, by carelessness or by a failure, to cause any grief to a grieving mother.”

Mr Brown took the opportunity to again argue the case for the British government’s strategy in Afghanistan, eight years after UK forces first entered the country to oust the Taliban from Kabul.

“I feel I have a constant duty to explain to people the reasons why we went to Afghanistan,” he added, before rejecting the idea of a ‘Fortress Britain’ approach and insisting the main threat to Britain came from Al-Qaida groups based in the Afghan-Pakistani border area.

Ms Janes had criticised the government for failing to ensure British troops had sufficient levels of equipment.

Mr Brown insisted that ministers had done all they could to ensure the safety of the armed forces serving in Afghanistan.

“The idea we are in any way careless or in any way unthinking about… our armed forces is completely wrong,” he said.