At the end, the manner of his parting spoke volumes about this most paradoxical of men. For Gordon Brown was a man of massive contradictions: a Christian idealist who was also a political street fighter capable of the most venal behavior.
This ugly side of Gordon Brown's character has been an open secret at Westminster for years.
Brown bore grudges, and sustained them across decades. He brooded. Driven half-mad by ambition, he would automatically seek to destroy anyone he viewed, however remotely, as a rival.
And some of the means he used demeaned both him and the office he held.
Indeed, Gordon Brown tolerated in his inner circle some of the nastiest political operators in recent Westminster history.
It is wholly in character that over the past few days Gordon Brown has been unable to utter a single generous word about David Cameron's electoral achievement last Thursday, or publicly acknowledge that he himself has been defeated.
Thirteen years ago, when Brown arrived at the Treasury [as Chancellor Of The Exchequer], government spending accounted for 37 per cent of the gross national product. This year, it will account for a massive 52 per cent: a transfer of wealth and power from the private sector to central government that is unprecedented in peacetime.
For Brown the socialist, that may be a huge achievement. Ultimately, however, he did great damage to the British economy, creating a vast and debilitating client state of public sector workers, and a terrifying culture of welfare dependency among the feckless and unemployed.
The most lethal charge against Gordon Brown is that at no point did he set aside money to guard Britain against the inevitable economic downturn—meaning that the nation was caught unawares when recession finally struck in 2007.
He genuinely seemed to believe that Britain's relative prosperity under his Chancellorship was down entirely to his shrewd management. Repeatedly he would claim the sole personal credit for the powerful performance of this economy, and he will long be ridiculed for his claim to have abolished boom and bust.
But the moment when the downturn came, Prime Minister Brown refused—as always—to accept any of the blame, saying that international financial markets alone were at fault.
The great tragedy for Brown is that, despite a lifelong ambition for the top job, he was not a natural leader, and never quite up to being Prime Minister.
11 May 2010