'She died in our arms' - Brown on his daughter

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Indy Politics

A tearful Gordon Brown has spoken at length about the death of his "beautiful" baby daughter Jennifer Jane four years ago.

His emotional interview suggests that the Chancellor, a notoriously private man, has decided to "open up" to display his human side to both the Labour Party and the wider public. In the past, he has distanced himself from what his allies have described as Tony Blair's "touchy-feely stuff".

In a long interview with Sky News, Mr Brown explained: "The public need to know who you are. The public need to know where you came from."

Although he remains the clear front-runner to succeed Tony Blair as Labour leader, his new strategy will be seen as a response to the threat posed by David Cameron, who has revived the Tories' prospects.

Recalling how his first child died at 10 days old from a brain haemorrhage, he said: "There is nothing worse than having a young, precious baby taken from you. You never come to terms with it. You always know that there's something missing. Two weeks ago she would have been going to school for the first time. She was unblemished by the illness that she had. She just looked beautiful." He added: "She... she died in our arms."

The Chancellor said: "It's very tough for any parents faced with a loss that you never expect, that's so surprising, that you have to come to terms with."

He said the memory of Jennifer had inspired he and his wife, Sarah, to help make life better for others, "so some good can come out of the tragedy".

Mr Brown said: "We wanted to do something to make things better for other parents who faced the same tragedy that we faced. It's sometimes difficult to come to terms with it. And you have got, I think, to try and do something."

He also tried to draw a final line under the recent tension between him and Mr Blair over when the Prime Minister should stand down.

"Tony is my friend. He will always be my friend. And you build friendships but friendships have ups and downs as well," he said.

"No Chancellor has served nine years and no Prime Minister has had the same Chancellor for nine years. You are bound to go through ups and downs. But the question at the end of the day is, overall, what were the results of what happened?"

Mr Brown added: "Over the 23 years I have known him, this has been one of the strongest political relationships in history." He said Mr Blair had acted with "a tremendous amount of ability, skill, acumen and sensitivity to what the British people want."

He admitted he had made mistakes as Chancellor, including being too cautious about spending in Labour's early years in power. "Perhaps I was too hard. Perhaps that time when the pension did not rise fast enough," he said, referring to his decision to let the state basic pension rise by just 75p.

Mr Brown did not deny that he struck a deal on the party leadership with Mr Blair at the Granita restaurant in Islington in 1994. "I don't think deals are anything that matter in politics," he said. He insisted there would be no deals over when the Prime Minister decides to stand down.

Mr Brown also used the interview to describe Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, as a "great friend". Mr Johnson, a Blairite, has expressed his interest in the deputy leadership and is thought now to be considering a challenge to Mr Brown for the leadership when Mr Blair resigns. But he refused to comment on whether he would like to see Mr Johnson as his deputy, saying: "Politics is not about personalities, it's about getting things done."

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