Gordon’s (still) Alive

House of Commons of the United Kingdom
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Junior Minister Peter Luff declared last night’s adjournment debate ‘a political footnote’. The reason for that footnote was that this half hour debate contained a speech from the MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath. That probably wouldn’t merit even the tiniest of footnotes where it not for the fact that the MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath is one Gordon Brown.

This was of course his first speech since the General Election and his first from the backbenches in nearly 20 years. He chose this particular debate for his first speech because it was to discuss the future of Scottish shipbuilding.In particular,  he wanted a government commitment that maintenance on Britain’s two new aircraft carriers would be carried out at Rosyth naval yard near his own constituency.

After noting the “above average attendance” for an adjournment debate (traditionally these late-night debates generally only have a mere handful of MPs in attendance), he went on to say

“I think it is important to recognise that when announcements are to be made by the Ministry of Defence that Rosyth is the base that is able to refit these carriers in the years to come.”

Brown also noted that suggestions the maintenance could be relocated to France are a mistake.

Rebutting David Cameron’s comments that this government only renewed the aircraft carriers because Brown had made it more expensive to cancel the contracts than to continue, Brown continued

 “These are military decisions made on military advice for military reasons.

“The reason that these decisions have been made is this – that if we are to retain a global presence as a navy, as armed forces and as a country, then we will need these aircraft carriers in the years to come.”

Considering he didn’t get to his feet until 10:15pm and that adjournment debates are generally not well attended, there were a surprisingly high number of MPs present in the chamber. Never let it be said that MPs don’t have a sense of when a historic moment is about to happen.

Brown left it as late as he could to enter the crowded chamber and made his way along one of the back benches where he sat among fellow Scottish MPs.

I was expecting to see that, much like Blair before him, a post-Downing Street Gordon Brown would look healthier and less tired than he had when he was under siege as Prime Minister. But it wasn’t to be. He looked as drawn and exhausted as ever, and is probably carrying a few more pounds.

Though despite his physical appearance, Brown seemed more relaxed and laughed along with his fellow Labour MPs when Peter Luff, the duty minister, repeated an old Brown line that ‘MPs should trust in the instincts of their executive’.

Although there had been whispers around Westminster during the day that the Tories would use the opportunity to make a point about Brown being responsible for the ‘unnecessary expense’ of the aircraft carriers, the coalition benches seemed to react with only the merest jeering for the former Prime Minister, while Labour MPs present in the chamber seemed happy to see Brown among their number. There was even something of  a festive feel in the air. Surely not something Gordon Brown can have been used to over the last few years.

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