Francis Beckett

I heard about Gordon Brown’s resignation on my way to a Russian-organised concert at the Albert Hall to mark the 65th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe. 

 Compere Nick Owen read a message “from the British Prime Minister”, and the audience tittered in a slightly embarrassed way.  “I’ll tell him” said Owen.  He’d rehearsed that line.

If Nick Clegg forced Brown out as the price for a deal, he never did a worse day’s work. Brown will probably be succeeded by some smooth Blairite with none of Brown’s solid qualities.

In the circumstances, the Brown message to the concert sounded dutiful and defiant. Our brave forces, the end of fascism...if he wrote it himself, he was defiantly doing his duty to the last.  And he almost certainly did write it himself, for it was the Brown we all know: worthy, a bit clunky, but with a real feeling for history.

It’s appropriate that the last message as PM from Brown the twentieth century historian should be to celebrate a historical milestone.

It’s appropriate too that he should be celebrating the end of a war. It’s wars that finished Brown – not his wars, but Tony Blair’s.  Brown has reaped the electoral whirlwind for Iraq.  Tony Blair lived by the sword; but it was Gordon Brown who died by it.

And it was the perfect event for a man with a PhD in history to mark his departure from politics.  The event had a programme whose layout came straight out of the Soviet graphic design manual, with big type, long paragraphs, wide columns and brave military pictures, and which offered a history of the Second World War with one of those wonderful Soviet omissions in it.  It appears that Britain, France and the Soviet Union “outlined” their future co-operation  in 1939, and then Germany attacked the Soviet Union in 1941.  So what happened in 1940?  Nothing, apparently.  The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact doesn’t rate a mention. A historian's event.  Brown, if he could have spared the time, would have enjoyed it as much as I did.