Scottish independence: Could Gordon Brown be the best hope saving the Union?

Former PM takes increasingly central role in the No campaign

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The Independent Online

“If Cameron gets into Downing Street, we’ll never get him out,” Gordon Brown told close allies as he clung on to power for five days after the 2010 general election ended in a hung parliament. There was little love lost between the Prime Minister and David Cameron, who accused him of “squatting” in Number 10.

Yet Mr Brown may now turn out to the man who preserves Mr Cameron’s tenure in Downing Street, which could come to a humiliating end if Scotland votes for independence in next week’s referendum. It is one of the many ironies in Mr Brown’s last-minute switch from the substitutes’ bench to become captain of the No team.

Another twist is the belated rapprochement between Mr Brown and Alistair Darling, leader of the Better Together campaign. They fell out after Mr Darling, the then-Chancellor, predicted the worst recession in 60 years and Prime Minister Brown unleashed “the forces of hell” upon him, according to Mr Darling. In the early part of the referendum battle, Mr Brown appeared on a “United with Labour” platform and did not share one with Mr Darling until last month.

Mr Brown is one of the few Labour figures the SNP privately fears. He can reach parts of the Scottish electorate others cannot – especially working class voters, who could decide the referendum. The SNP routinely accuse Labour politicians of “getting into bed with the Tories” but the label does not stick to Mr Brown, a strong advocate of home rule inside the UK since his 20s.

After his 2010 defeat, Mr Brown failed to land the big international job friends believe he deserved for his handling of the global financial crisis. He has kept a low profile at Westminster since, but in recent months he has finally rediscovered his voice. In his role as a United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, Mr Brown led calls for action after 200 Nigerian girls were abducted from their schools by Boko Haram terrorists. Now he is centre stage in the Scottish referendum debate.

Even his political foes admit that the man who once inadvertently boasted he had “saved the world” instead of saying “the banks”, may now be the only man who can save the Union.