Gordon Brown: For the chance to serve, thank you all very very much

Gordon Brown at Monday's event
Gordon Brown at Monday's event
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Kirkcaldy MP bows out of politics after three decades of service

The Old Kirk is one of Kirkcaldy’s most historic buildings - a place of worship for 800 years; a fitting venue for a son of the manse to announce his retirement from politics.

Gordon Brown will stand down as MP for Kirkcaldy at the 2015 General Election.

Speculation had been rife he was going to bring the curtain down on his political career - but his own comment on it came in his home town.

There was a huge media turnout and his speech was broadcast live on all the leading news channels, but it was, at heart, an informal and very personal gathering.

Just as he celebrated his 30th anniversary as an MP with a private social gathering in the back hall within St Bryce Kirk, where his late father was minister, so he returned to Kirk Wynd in the heart of his home town to confirm the news first to those closest to him - constituency colleagues, political colleagues, friends, and invited guests.

With his wife Sarah and sons John and Fraser present, Mr Brown confirmed he would not stand at the General Election, stepping down to focus on his charity work and his role as a UN special envoy for global education.

He will leave behind a 23,000 majority to Labour to defend - one of the biggest in the UK - and the challenge of finding someone to hold what has been the safest of safe seats.

Mr Brown’s spoke of the moral purpose of public service, and of his honour and pride in representing his home town.

And he spoke of it being the ‘‘right time’’ to stand down after 31 years in politics - a career which saw him become the longest serving Chancellor in history, create the most compelling, dynamic and discussed political leadership duo with Tony Blair, and go on to serve as Prime Minister before returning to frontline politics to play an influential role in the referendum to persuade Scots to vote to remain within the union.

On announcing his retirement he said: ‘‘Even after a week of speculation, it is a strange experience to read your obituary before you have retired.

“Today I have my say, tomorrow the newspapers will have their say, and then history will have its say.’’

He continued: ‘‘It is the right thing to do.

‘‘It was my intention to announce what I was doing about my future immediately after the referendum, but there was still work to be done.

‘‘I wanted to be absolutely certain the changes we were promised for a stronger Scottish Parliament were in place before I made any decision.’’

He also scotched rumours of any peerage, stating clearly he would not be going to the House of Lords.

‘‘For the avoidance of any doubt, I am not going back Westminster, not to the House of Commons after the General Election and not to the House of Lords.

“It is Fife, where our home is, where our children, John and Fraser are happily at school, where I will do the new and extended work as a United Nations’ special envoy.”

Mr Brown offered his full support to campaign for Labour in the Scottish elections, and also to back Ed Milliband in the General Election, and said he would speak out on issues if he felt he had a voiced and could help.

And his theme - that politics is about a moral purpose to serve - underpinned much of his speech.

‘‘While I have no desire to return to frontline politics, if the health service needs a champion or if the case for social justice needs someone to speak, and I feel I can make a difference then I will do whatever I can in my power to help.’’

Mr Brown’s speech was also very personal, thanking his wife and family for their support - and he spoke of the love and compassion from many Fifers following the sad loss of their daughter, Jennifer, at just ten days of age, 13 years ago.

And he finished with a humble farewell.

‘‘In the end, politics is about public service.

‘‘The short way of ending is to say thank you. The long way is - for the chance to serve thank you all very very much.’’

Amid a swarm of photographers he left the stage for the last time.

Search is on for successor

The constituency Labour Party now has the tricky challenge of picking the right candidate to defend Mr Brown’s Kirkcaldy seat.

It comes with a thumping 23,000 majority, but much of that may have been a personal vote for the former Prime Minister.

He took a massive 64 per cent of the vote - a six per cent rise at a time when his Government was removed from
office.

One of the names in the frame - and understood to be a frontrunner - is Councillor Kenny Selbie.

First elected to Fife Council 2012, the Kirkcaldy Central councillor is well regarded within the party, and his name has been touted as a possible successor to Mr Brown b y a number of sources.

Other names in the hat include John Park, a former MSP and member of Iain Gray’s Shadow Cabinet. He resigned from Holyrood in 2012 to take a post with the Community trades union.

He ran Labour’s 2011 election campaign.

The medical help no-one knew about

Gordon Brown revealed on Monday how the surgeon who saved his sight as a teenager returned to Downing Street and helped him once more amid fears over his vision.

Dr Hector Chawla was also among the guests in the Old Kirk to hear the politician tell the story for the very first time.

Mr Brown revealed how medical help came without the media finding out, despite the 24/7 scrutiny of life in Downing street.

Dr Chawla was a senior registrar at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and had just returned from from a year-long fellowiship with a retinal surgeon in Chicago when he came across Mr Brown who had already had three operations to try to repair the damage to a torn retina.

His work saved Mr Brown’s sight and he returned decades later when help was required once more after tears to his eye were discovered while in Downing Street.

Mr Brown explained: ‘‘Quietly without anyone in the media knowing, he came to help me again.’’

Tributes:

Ed Milliband, Labour leader: A towering figure in British politics because, for a generation, he helped make the political weather and change our country.

David Cameron, Prime Minister: Gordon has given a huge amount in terms of public service and his contribution in government and in Parliament.

Sir Menzies Campbell, form Liberal leader: No-one should ever forget that when the world economy stood on the abyss it was his determined action which persuaded many countries to take the cumulative steps which ensured that there was not a global depression.

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister: There is no doubt that he has made an enormous contribution over many years to Scottish, UK and international politics.

Ruth Davidson MSP, Scottish Conservative leaderd: Following the success of the Better Together campaign, he leaves Westminster with his head held high.

Willie Rennie MSP, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader: From New Labour, to the recession to the referendum Gordon’s presence dominated. A great mind, a forceful personality and a great statesman. He has much more to give.

Lord Mandelson, one of the architects of New Labour along with Mr Brown and Tony Blair: He didn’t get everything right but he did get the big things right.

Lindsay Roy MP: The towering, most influential Scottish politician over the last two decades and more. His outstanding achievements in the UK and on the world stage are embedded in history and he has consistently demonstrated supreme qualities of leadership in so many contexts.