UK’s Brown offers to quit to save Labour

By Sumeet Desai

LONDON (BestGrowthStock) – Britain’s Gordon Brown does not give up easily.

He waited in the wings for 10 years before finally replacing Tony Blair as prime minister and has seen off numerous coup attempts since he took the top job in 2007 while battling the worst economic recession since World War Two.

But on Monday the 59-year old Scot announced he would quit as Labour leader in a bid to give his beloved party at least one more chance of remaining in power after last week’s inconclusive election.

Thursday’s election produced Britain’s first hung parliament since 1974 with the Conservatives winning the most seats but not getting a majority. Expectations have so far centered around them forming a coalition with the smaller Liberal Democrats.

Brown, prime minister since 2007, has stayed on as interim leader but four days after Thursday’s inconclusive election Brown has had to concede that only his departure could open the way for a coalition between Labour and Liberal Democrats.

Even that grouping would need the support of other parties in order to gain a majority and extend Labour’s 13 years in office.

It would also keep Brown as prime minister and Labour leader until October, an incredible result for a man who was third place in many polls just a week before the election and had been completely written off over a year ago when he was nearly 30 points behind in the polls.

“The most important thing in one’s life is to be determined when bad things happen to you, and not to let events beat you,” Brown once told Reuters, referring to a sporting injury when he was 16 that cost him an eye and nearly made him completely blind.

BOOM AND BUST

Finance minister for a decade to 2007, Brown was long lauded for skilful management of the economy. His masterstroke was Bank of England independence in 1997 and it was also his decision to not join the euro.

That reputation took a body blow as the global financial crisis caused the worst recession in decades, finally putting paid to his once oft-repeated promise of ending boom and bust.

For a long time, he must have rued his decision not to call an election in October 2007 before the crisis really hit, when he was 10 points ahead in the polls.

Brown, a serious, sometimes brooding figure, then saw his popularity plummet. By mid-2008, ministers were testing the waters to see if he could be toppled.

But just as the global financial system was staring into the abyss in the autumn of 2008, Brown came up with his plan to recapitalize the banks. It was soon followed around the world.

Then came the London summit in April 2009. Brown got a standing ovation from his fellow G20 leaders for brokering a trillion-dollar lifeline for the crisis-hit global economy.

Any political capital vanished on news one of his closest aides had sent emails smearing opposition politicians, followed by an expenses scandal that tarnished all the main parties.

Perhaps the darkest hour of Brown’s premiership came in June 2009 when support for Labour plunged to its lowest level in a century in European elections and cabinet minister James Purnell resigned, calling Brown an electoral liability. He survived but was weakened.

BIGOTGATE

Much older than his rivals and lacking their easy charm, Brown was widely judged to have come last in each of the three televised debates between the leaders of the three main parties during the election campaign.

“Bigotgate” in the week before the election made people only more certain that he was doomed. The prime minister was caught on an open microphone complaining to aides that a pensioner he had just met was “a bigoted woman.”

Informed of his mistake, he rushed to the woman’s house to apologize. But the damage was done and the next day’s newspapers mostly showed Brown with his head in his hands looking utterly spent.

Brown had once wanted to be footballer. But at 16, a sporting injury put him in hospital for months and he now has a glass eye. Sight in his remaining eye is bad.

He threw himself into left-wing politics at Edinburgh University, his beliefs shaped by the poverty he saw growing up in Kirkcaldy, a Scottish town with a failing linoleum industry and which he now represents as a member of parliament.

The Brown Sugars, mini-skirted female fans, cheered him to his first election victory as a university official in the 1970s.

But even he conceded his presentational skills are lacking and voters have found it hard to warm to him. Still, the nation mourned with him and his wife, Sarah, when his daughter, Jennifer Jane, died 10 days after her premature birth in 2001.

The couple have had two children since. John in 2003 and Fraser, who has cystic fibrosis, in 2006.

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UK’s Brown offers to quit to save Labour