WHEN Gordon Brown gave notice of his intention to leave
Parliament next May, after 30 years as an MP, he referred once
again to his father. "I still hold to the belief in something
bigger than ourselves. I still hold to a belief in the moral
purpose of public service, something I learnt from my father, and
which I hope to inspire in my children." The Revd John Brown was a
Church of Scotland minister in Kirkcaldy, working selflessly for
the poor and unemployed in the depressed coastal town.
Never has the phrase "child of the manse" been more applicable.
At a time when his predecessor, freed from the constraints of the
party's PR department, was talking openly about his faith, Gordon
Brown struggled to speak with ease on the topic. He fell back on
his father's faith, saying that his "moral compass" had been fixed
by his father - a modest declaration of faith, but eloquent to
those who know Scottish presbyterianism. Gordon Brown's character
flaws - real, imagined, and almost certainly exaggerated - have
been picked over, not least by members of his own party. His
achievements, both as Chancellor of the Exchequer and Prime
Minister, will continue to be disputed.
But what will endure is his sense of duty to those whom he
represented, and most particularly to the poor, in a commitment
learnt at his father's knee. It was what drew him to politics, and
his rejection of Westminster can be read as an indictment:
"Sometimes politics is seen at best as a branch of the
entertainment industry. There are times when political parties seem
not to be agents of change but brands to be marketed to people who
are seen as consumers."