London: It was never meant to be like
this, a slow rise and an abrupt fall.
Gordon Brown waited for 10 years before he finally
became Prime Minister in the summer of 2007, and would have
liked to stay on for at least 10 years in 10, Downing Street.
That was, until the May 6 elections cut short his
tenancy in Britain's most famous residential address.
Brown always saw himself as more competent and capable
than Tony Blair, who held office for a record 10 years from
1997 to 2007.
Throughout that period, Brown hung on with a grim face
as Chancellor, waiting for Blair to abdicate in his favour.
Brown's decision to step down as Labour leader brings
to the fore another example ? if more were needed ? of Enoch
Powell's famous dictum that 'all political careers end in
Britons love their prime ministers and leaders ? but
only after they resign, present the picture of spiders caught
in their own webs and move away from public gaze.
The commenterati has already started writing Brown's
political obituary and discovering virtues in him.
Perhaps not many within the Labour party and outside
will miss Brown, but one person who will notice his absence is
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who developed a rapport with
Brown when he visited India in January 2007.
Both Brown and Singh are dour economists, and Brown
has been among the first British politicians to recognise the
opportunities and challenges India presents to Britain's
First as Chancellor and then as Prime Minister, India
figured prominently in his speeches inside and outside the
House of Commons, as he particularly focused on India's
growing role in global issues such as climate change.
Brown and Manmohan Singh share a strong academic
background in economics: both have doctorates in the subject,
Brown from the Edinburgh University and Singh from Oxford.
Singh served as India's finance minister before
becoming the prime minister. Brown has trodden the same path
en route to 10, Downing Street.
Brown has been a regular in meetings of the Labour
Friends of India, a lobby within the Labour party comprising
MPs, ministers and party leaders.
At a recent meeting of the group, he said: "I value my
contacts with India and want to convey my thanks to Labour
Friends of India for the constructive and positive role it
plays in parliament".
Born in 1951, Brown was educated at Kirkcaldy High
School and Edinburgh University, where he gained First Class
Honours and then a Doctorate.
He was Rector of Edinburgh University and Chairman of
the University Court between 1972 and 1975.
From 1976 to 1980, Brown lectured at Edinburgh
University and then Caledonian University before taking up a
post at Scottish TV (1980 - 1983).
After becoming an MP, Brown was the Chair of the
Labour Party Scottish Council. Before becoming Shadow
Chancellor in 1992 he held two other senior posts on the
Opposition front bench - Shadow Chief Secretary to the
Treasury and Shadow Trade and Industry Secretary.
Brown has had a number of works published including
Maxton, The Politics of Nationalism and Devolution and Where
There is Greed. He has also edited a number of books including
John Smith: Life and Soul of the Party and Values, Visions and
Brown's PhD thesis was titled 'Labour's struggle to
establish itself as the alternative to the Conservatives (in
the early part of the 20th century)'.
For a while, he lectured at the Edinburgh and
Caledonian universities, and also had a brief stint as a
journalist at Scottish TV in the early 1980s.
Brown, a Scot, was elected to parliament as a Labour
MP for Dunfermline East in 1983, and became the opposition
spokesman on trade and industry in 1985.
He was the Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury from
1987 to 1989 and then Shadow Secretary of State for Trade and
Industry, before becoming Shadow Chancellor in 1992.
After the sudden death of Labour leader John Smith in
May 1994, Brown was one of those tipped as a potential party
It has long been rumoured that a deal was struck
between Blair and Brown at the Granita restaurant in
Islington, in which Blair promised to give Brown control of
economic policy in return for Brown not standing against him
in the leadership election.
Brown has headed the Treasury since 1997.
In June 2004, he became Britain's longest continuously
serving Chancellor of the Exchequer since the 1820s,
overtaking David Lloyd George who served for seven years and
43 days between 1908 and 1915.
With an image of a workaholic, serious and sombre
politician, Brown's record has been hailed across party lines
as the 'Iron Chancellor'.
Wrote Michael White in The Guardian: "The paradox of
Brown's career is that of a man blessed with intellectual
gifts, drive and ambition who was simultaneously cursed with a
debilitating self-doubt which easily turned to mistrust and
suspicion of all but the most devoted allies".
He added: "Few of Gordon Brown's friends and admirers
would have predicted during his dominant decade as chancellor
that his life's journey from the Presbyterian manse in
Kirkcaldy to No 10 would end in such a painful exit".
First Published: Tuesday, May 11, 2010, 17:41