"Gordon Brown's announcement that he will resign as Britain's Labour leader brings to an end an often turbulent three years as the nation's prime minister. But in many ways, his resignation marks much more than that.
It brings to an end a period of more than 20 years in which Mr Brown has been one of the dominant figures in British political and public life – first as one of the co-architects of New Labour, then as chancellor of the exchequer, or finance minister, and finally as premier.
For much of those two decades, Mr Brown was, alongside Tony Blair, one half of a duopoly that transformed the Labour party and made it one of the most successful machines in postwar politics. The contrast between the two men – Mr Blair the communicator and persuader, Mr Brown the economic strategist and preacher – could, at its best, make for a powerful combination able to sweep all before it."
"But at the heart of this pair was one fatal flaw: Mr Brown's determination that Mr Blair must one day step aside and that he should get the top job. Mr Brown succeeded in July 2007 in forcing his ally out. But hubris was soon followed by nemesis. Having got to Number 10 Downing Street, Mr Brown failed to take Labour to a fourth election victory after Mr Blair's hat-trick[In sports, a hat-trick means to achieve a positive feat in the sport three times during a game] of successes."
What advocates say:
He must be recognised for three immense achievements. First, as chancellor, he gave independence to the Bank of England and kept the UK out of the single European currency. This was at a time when many – notably Mr Blair and Peter Mandelson, another key New Labour figure – argued that Britain should go in. As Europe comes to terms with the immense crisis over Greece's finances, many in Britain will judge that decision to have been correct.
Second, his allies will ague that in 2002 he played a crucial role in resurrecting the UK national health service, taking British health spending as a proportion of GDP to the European average. His critics will argue that the injection of cash took place without adequate reform of the NHS's structure – and that billions were wasted. But Britain has not returned to the levels of underfunding in the 1990s that left patients lying unattended in hospital corridors.
The final achievement – and it is the one that will be most recognised outside the UK – is the role he played in the financial crisis of 2008. Mr Brown is widely recognised for his decision to launch Britain's bank recapitalisation plan, one followed by the US and Europe at a critical moment. Both this and the pioneering role he played in deploying the G20 group of countries to deal with the crash will be widely hailed by world leaders.
What detractors say:
"For all of that, there is much that Mr Brown's detractors will highlight on the debit side. The main charge against him will always be that he leaves office with the UK facing its most serious fiscal crisis since the second world war. Mr Brown's mantra as chancellor was that, under Labour, there would be no return to Tory “boom and bust”, a reference to how he believed the Conservatives had mismanaged the economy. Yet that phrase came to haunt him as the boom years ended in recession and a colossal deficit.
There are other failings too. One is his inability to connect with Britons. The first 10 years of New Labour were dominated by Mr Blair, the best communicator in modern British politics. But Mr Brown, a Scot, failed to click with the British electorate, often appearing dismissive.
Yet for all his flaws, one thing cannot be doubted: Mr Brown has for 20 years been a giant on the British political landscape, a Gladstonian figure with a constant claim to a “moral compass”. It will be years, decades perhaps, before Britain produces a political thinker and strategist on this scale again."