Speculation is growing in Westminster that Gordon Brown may hang up his boots as an MP in 2015 after taking a back seat in the Labour party.
Mr Brown’s spokesman, when pressed, said the former prime minister was “not proposing to stand down”. But I did not get a simple yes-no answer to one specific question of whether Mr Brown “will stand for Parliament in 2015.”
Two well-placed sources have told me that they do not expect the former Labour prime minister to remain the MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath after the end of this Parliament.
Mr Brown has been a rare speaker in the House of Commons and has left his former protégée Ed Miliband largely alone since he replaced him as leader.
Other allies of Mr Brown, however, claim not to have heard anything about this. And Charlie King, his spokesman, has tried to dismiss the speculation, telling me that “Mr Brown is not proposing to stand down.”
(King is not very easy to get hold of. After he didn’t reply to my email yesterday, I called his constituency office and asked for King’s mobile phone number, only to be told that he didn’t tend to give it to journalists.)
But King has now got in touch via email.
Does our email exchange leave open the possibility that Mr Brown may not be an MP after 2015? I’ll leave you to make your own minds up.
We’re poised to report rumours that Gordon Brown probably won’t stand as an MP in 2015. Is that right?
Jim Pickard FT
You asked if the story you proposed to run about a Brown announcement was true.
It is not true. Mr Brown will make no such announcement. You may note that he has led two special debates in the Commons recently on radiation at Dalgety Bay and on Remploy. You can consult his website for the many constituency initiatives in which he is engaged.
I did not ask if there was going to be an announcement: therefore you’ve answered a question that does not exist. To rephrase the question. Can you categorically say that Mr Brown will stand for Parliament in 2015?
“The story you are trying to write is not correct and you have no factual basis for writing it. Your questions were answered in my first reply. Mr Brown is not proposing to stand down.
Great: so just to double check – you are happy with us writing that he is going to stay on after 2015 (subject to re-election)?
“Jim, the ‘double checking’ is that there is no story, hard as I know that you are trying to find one.”
In other words, is Mr Brown’s spokesman denying his boss is about to announce he will be stepping down? (If so that might be what is called a non-denial denial in the trade.) And does this answer the question of what his intentions are for 2015?
Mr Brown’s relations with the press became increasingly strained under his premiership, not least when News International switched its backing to the Tory party.
Only a few days ago the former premier complained to the Press Complaints Commission over a Sunday Times story about the £2m in fees and expenses he has generated since stepping down from Downing Street.
The story, “Globe-trotting Gordon Brown loses his voice”, made clear that the money had been “ploughed back into his public and charitable activities”.
But Mr King lodged a complaint with the PCC accusing the newspaper of publishing a “deliberate slur”. The argument was that the Sunday Times had used the phrase “received” when the money had gone to The Office of Gordon and Sarah Brown, which was set up to carry out his charitable activities.
But the PCC rejected the complaint as the paper had made it clear that the money was not for his personal gain. “It was the commission’s view that the newspaper had not mispresented the situation,” the PCC said in its adjudication.
Separately, however, Brown’s office has had seven corrections and clarifications published in News International titles since October last year.