Marr criticised over PM health questions

BBC journalist Andrew Marr has been criticised for repeating questions about Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s health which have been mainly aired on rightwing websites.

Interviewing Brown on BBC1 yesterday Marr said he wanted to ask about “something everybody has been talking about in the Westminster village… A lot of people in this country use prescription painkillers and pills to help them get through.

“Are you one of them?”

The Prime Minister responded: “No. I think this is the sort of questioning which is all too often entering the lexicon of British politics.”

Brown went on to discuss the well-documented problems he suffered as a result of a boyhood rugby injury which cost him the sight in one eye, revealing that he recently underwent an annual check-up which showed no deterioration in the vision of his good eye.

When Marr tried to steer the interview back onto the issue of painkiller use, the PM cut him off, saying: “I’ve already answered that question.”

Discussing his eye injury, Brown said: “I have had very serious problems with my eye. I lost my eyesight playing rugby. I had three major operations and they couldn’t save my sight.

“I then had exactly the same thing happen in my second eye. I had the same retinal detachment. I had the same fear that therefore I might lose my sight in that eye.

“I had to have a very big operation to deal with that and every year, of course, I have to check – as I did only a few days ago – that my eyesight is good.

“There has been absolutely no deterioration in my eyesight. I think people should be absolutely clear that although I had problems with my eyes and it has been very difficult over the years, I think people understand that you can do a job and you can work hard.

“I think it would be a terrible indictment of a political system if people thought because you had this medical condition, you couldn’t do a job.”

He added: “When people ask these questions about these things, particularly my eyesight, I feel I have done everything to show people that I can do the job even with the handicap that I have had as a result of a rugby injury.”

Business Secretary Peter Mandelson told a rally of the Progress thinktank in Brighton that Labour should demand from the media “equal scrutiny of what other politicians are saying and the same degree of personal intrusiveness that we saw the Prime Minister receive from Andrew Marr this morning on his programme, based on what I have not the foggiest idea and I wonder if Andrew did either.”

A senior Labour source was today quoted in The Guardian saying: “There is irritation that a question based on a smear by a rightwing blogger, which has been repeatedly and categorically denied as untrue, was asked of the prime minister. Talking about his personal health is at best baffling and at worst quite dreadful. It was put to us denied.”

Blogger Guido Fawkes is among those who have been raising the questions about Brown’s health.

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