Across the political divide, sympathy for a personal tragedy

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Messages of sympathy for Gordon and Sarah Brown were sent by politicians of all parties last night.

Helen Liddell, Secretary of State for Scotland, described the couple's loss as "heartbreaking" and called for the privacy of the grieving family to be respected. "Baby Jennifer may have only known her parents for only a short time but she will have changed their lives for ever," she said. "I hope Gordon and Sarah will now be left to grieve in private."

Iain Duncan Smith, the Tory party leader, said the loss of a child was "the most devastating blow any family can suffer". He added: "Our thoughts go out to Sarah and Gordon Brown in their grief for baby Jennifer. Our thought and prayers are with them and with her."

Charles Kennedy sent his "deepest condolences" and also asked that the Chancellor and his wife be given space to come to terms with the tragedy. "Our hearts go out to Gordon and Sarah Brown at this very sad time for them," said the Liberal Democrat leader. "I send them my deepest condolences and we must now all now respect their privacy."

One of the Chancellor's closest political allies expressed his personal grief. Nigel Griffiths, a minister at the Department of Trade and Industry, said: "This is a terrible tragedy and all Gordon and Sarah's friends are deeply upset. They are in our thoughts and prayers."

The Scottish National Party leader, John Swinney, said few would be able to comprehend the effect of the tragic loss on the Brown family. "This is terribly sad news for Gordon and Sarah Brown and the family," said Mr Swinney. "They will have had such a short time with their daughter and none of us will truly understand the depth of their loss. I want to express on behalf of the SNP our deepest sympathy."

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Labour Party said everyone in Scotland would be united in grief. "We are all devastated by this news and like everyone in Scotland our thoughts are with Gordon and Sarah," he said.

David McLetchie, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said the Browns had suffered "every parent's nightmare".

Jim Wallace, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats and the Deputy First Minister, said: "I wish to express my heartfelt sympathy to the Brown family. Everyone in Scotland will share in this terrible sadness."