Gordon Brown - time is right to stand down at next election

Gordon Brown at Dalgety Bay Primary School  giving a speech the day after the result of the Scottish Independence Referendum to outline his vision for the immediate steps for the ountry and the lessons drawn from the campaign.
Gordon Brown at Dalgety Bay Primary School giving a speech the day after the result of the Scottish Independence Referendum to outline his vision for the immediate steps for the ountry and the lessons drawn from the campaign.

The Old Kirk in Kirkcaldy is one of Kirkcaldy’s most historic buildings - a place of worship for 800 years, and a fitting venue for the 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.

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 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, adding: ‘‘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 support of many Fifers following the sad loss of their daughter, Jennifer, at just ten days of age, 13 years ago.

He also revealed, for the first time, how the surgeon who saved his eyesight as a young man at Kirkcaldy High School after an accident playing rugby, returned to Downing Street to help once more after problems arose again.

Fellow Fife MP, Lindsay Roy, was among the first to pay tribute to Mr Brown - the man who persuaded him to stand in a crucial by-election in Glenrothes.

The former head teacher at Kirkcaldy High school - Mr Brown’s alma mater - said: ‘’Gordon has been 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.

’’As Chancellor he presided over the longest period of economic growth in modern times and as Prime Minister he showed characteristic courage , saving our banking system, and more, during the economic crisis.

’’And more recently, his leadership towards the end of the referendum campaign helped ensure that Scotland remained within the UK family of nations, with all the dividends that brings.

‘’I wish him well as he embarks on a new and equally challenging phase of his life on the international stage where he will continue to put service before self and make a positive difference to peoples’ lives.’’