No spin, no leaks and no church for the Browns

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Indy Politics

"Give us another kiss, Chancellor," shouted an overexcited snapper. Gordon Brown, infamous for his wooden public persona, had already obliged once, but an entirely unexpected day harboured infinite hope for further surprise.

"Give us another kiss, Chancellor," shouted an overexcited snapper. Gordon Brown, infamous for his wooden public persona, had already obliged once, but an entirely unexpected day harboured infinite hope for further surprise.

Mr Brown, 49, gave Sarah Macaulay, 36, the long-term girlfriend he had married in his house less than an hour before, an encouraging look. Then he puckered and kissed her, not once but twice, on the lips.

In the back garden of his Fife constituency home, at North Queensferry, overlooking the Firth of Forth, Mr Brown seemed almost relaxed, his grin less rigid than usual. It was his wife, the normally poised PR consultant, in a knee-length, oyster silk dress and coat, hair threaded with rosebuds, who seemed more edgy. She was perhaps overwhelmed by the army of hacks on the pavement who easily outnumbered the two dozen guests.

Mr Brown's older brother and best man, John, 51, was among the first to arrive yesterday morning. Head of communications for Glasgow City Council, he had absolutely nothing to say. Other guests trickled in, including Ed Balls, Mr Brown's economic adviser, and his wife, the Health minister Yvette Cooper. A few cars entered the drive, one carrying a "mystery woman" everyone grew convinced was Ms Macaulay. Time wore on with no word from Mr Brown or London about the day's schedule.

Scouting parties were dispatched to local churches for signs of preparations. There was none. The paper boy, Ryan Seymour, 12, struggling to deliver the usual weighty wad of 20 titles through Mr Brown's door, was seized upon by frustrated journalists. He rewarded them with the revelation that the prudent Chancellor can be reckless. "Sometimes he gives me tips," said Ryan.

A local passer-by insisted: "He's a son of the manse so he will definitely get married in church", alluding to the Church of Scotland ministry of Brown's late father. But while people continued to arrive at Mr Brown's detached home, bordered by an impenetrable 10-foot hedge, still no one left. The wedding was almost certainly taking place inside, behind the thick, tightly drawn curtains.

Then news came that at 10.35am, Mr Brown and Ms Macaulay had exchanged vows in the back dining room,watched by Sheila Munro, a Church of Scotland minister, relatives, friends and political intimates. It was the end of an extraordinarily covert operation. Though the pair posted their banns at the registrar's office in nearby Inverkeithing more than two weeks ago, they had almost managed to keep the wedding secret.

A spokesman for the Chancellor said yesterday he believed locals had kept mum. But it's more likely most did not know. Recent rumours that the couple had split up perhaps threw wedding watchers off-guard, as did the firm conclusion, reached by Mr Brown's biographer Nick Kochan that the Chancellor was psychologically unsuited to marriage.

The press were eventually invited in for a picture. If the fourth estate was disappointed that there were no church pictures, so too were constituents. "It would have been nice if he had told us," said Scott Vaughan, 40. "People have been waiting at St Peter's."

As the couple retreated inside the house, the Chancellor thanked the media for coming. "We are very grateful," he said. And the old perma-smile remained strong.

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