His final walk along Downing Street, hand in hand with his wife and two young sons, was an uncharacteristically human moment in the political life of a Prime Minister who could never convince the British public to love him.
ow the electorate that scorned him is to be offered the chance to reassess his reputation and be afforded a glimpse into the “dark secrets” of the former Labour leader as his notorious rages, penchant for hair gel and Shakespearean fall from power are laid bare on the stage.
The Confessions of Gordon Brown, a one-man play, will open at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival next week before transferring to the Trafalgar Studios in London and a cheeky short run at the Labour Party conference at Brighton. It is a tale of back-stabbing, betrayals and a dream of power that went horribly wrong – with no time for dour lectures on the merits or otherwise of neo-classical endogenous growth theory.
So far those who have seen the show say that far from confirming their prejudices, it has made them reassess their view of Mr Brown, who served two years and 319 days in No 10 after spending a decade locked in an increasingly bitter feud over the top job with Tony Blair.
“I have had a lot of people who didn’t know him – as well as some that did – saying they didn’t particularly like him or care for him but now they have a bit of empathy with him,” said Ian Grieve, who plays the fellow Scot.
“It was a dubious honour to be told you are good casting for Gordon Brown,” he admits. Grieve said he has adopted the mannerisms of the former Prime Minister – the nail biting, jaw drop and furious one-fingered typing witnessed by his staff – but his primary intention was to make him “bearable company” for the duration of the show.
He believes Mr Brown’s luck simply ran out and that his public discomfiture emanated from his inability to create a convincing public persona for himself. “He wasn’t that good an actor. I suppose that is a good thing in a person that you can’t switch it on but it was doomed in him,” he said. “He was baffled about why he couldn’t make people like him. He knows he looks like a dodgy Scots bloke in a suit with a jowly neck and a fixed grin.”
Writer Kevin Toolis spoke to leading Brown supporters including Ed Balls and Damian McBride whilst researching the play and says Mr Brown surrounded himself with a clique who – like him – believed he had been unfairly usurped by his apprentice-turned-master Tony Blair. “He is a great man fallen. Even when he was in office people said he was a Shakespearean tragic figure. There was something about him that was magnificent but flawed with failure,” says Toolis. The play is not a hatchet job or a hagiography but rather an examination of leadership through the ages, he added.
Toolis believes Mr Brown was a morally good man and highly successful Chancellor. But unlike his rival Mr Blair, he could not sell the politics of hope to the Southern middle classes and “struggled with himself in a very Scottish way”.