1 Dec 2014

Gordon Brown and the last minute job offer

Gordon Brown leaves parliament only weeks after his successor Ed Miliband asked him to throw himself back into frontline politics. Ed Miliband wanted Gordon Brown to run for the leadership of the Scottish Labour party, made vacant by the sudden departure of Johann Lamont in October.

Gordon Brown didn’t have to think long at all before rejecting the idea. His wife Sarah wouldn’t have allowed it, one old friend said, even if Gordon had wanted to do it. His negative reply to Ed Miliband came pretty quickly – a new generation, he is believed to have said, needed to lead the Scottish party.

Gordon Brown himself had floated the idea of running for Holyrood in a line during the referendum campaign. He was relatively late to that campaign, angry with the tactics of the coalition, unwilling until quite late in the campaign to appear under the Better Together all-party campaign banner.


When he did thunder into the campaign it was with a pretty big impact. No 10 was buzzing with black humour as ministers and staffers watched Gordon Brown bestriding the political stage as if he had never left office. Gordon Brown announced the Lab/Con/Lib vow of more devolution to a breakneck timetable before the three current national party leaders got a moment to say it themselves.

There’s a bit of revisionism in bits of the Scottish Labour party about whether it really was Gordon Brown’s intervention that turned things round. What it did do for sure was fire up some activists to a last push when there had been real nerves the lead might be slipping from the no side.

Gordon Brown now has to live with and bite his tongue on the next phase of devolution announced last week by the Smith Commission. It goes way beyond what the former prime minister thought was prudent for the preservation of the union. He didn’t want to join in what he saw as the auction of percentage tax-raising devolution. But that is where, from his perspective, it has ended up.

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