Gay First Secretary of State Peter Mandelson today tried to deflect the criticism of Gordon Brown for a poorly-spelled letter he sent to the mother of a man killed in Afghanistan.

In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said the Sun was guilty of “bad taste and crude politicking” over the story.

Brown, who is blind in one eye, had made several spelling mistakes in a letter of condolence to Jacqui Janes, including spelling her name wrong. Her son Jamie was killed in action.

The Sun, which has led coverage of the story, recently turned its back on Labour after 12 years of support. It is Britain’s biggest-selling daily newspaper.

Mandelson also attacked a “bargain” formed between the newspaper and the Conservatives.

“They’ve effectively formed a contract, over the head of the newspaper’s editor and its readers, in which they are effectively bound to one another,” he said.

“What the Sun can do for the Conservatives before and after the election is one part of that contract.”

The First Secretary of State added that he had concerns the “contract” would undermine impartial BBC reporting of the general election.

He said: “I think there’s a wider question. And that is: when the Sun creates the news in this way, this is then followed up by Sky, which then puts pressure on the BBC to follow suit. And I think this has wider implications for the election, which, in my view, is of wider public concern.”

This fear was rubbished by the Tories, while a BBC spokesman said it would not be an issue.