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We can learn lessons from Iraq: Brown

He insists that he would not walk away from the responsibility of sending the country's forces in Iraq

world Updated: Apr 30, 2007 06:20 IST

Britain's Chancellor Gordon Brown, poised to succeed Tony Blair as the Prime Minister, says that lessons could be learnt from Iraq, where the UK troops are fighting insurgency, but insisted that he would not walk away from the responsibility of sending the country's forces in Iraq.

"There will be a time to reflect on that. I've always said on Iraq that we can learn lessons, but I'm a member of the Cabinet that made the decisions. I will not in any way walk away from that responsibility," Brown said in an interview to 'Daily Mail'.

He conceded that it has been "a difficult few weeks. But I'm not actually surprised that you go through periods when people don't think some of the things you are doing are right. It's nothing compared to other difficulties you have to face."

When Brown speaks of 'other difficulties', he is referring to the great tragedy of his life. His daughter, Jennifer, born seven weeks prematurely in 2001, died ten days later, of a brain haemorrhage, in her parents' arms.
In his despair, Brown resolved to write a book dedicated to his first-born child in order to raise money for a charity set up by his wife in Jennifer's name.
"We wanted to help people in the same position as us. There's far more tragedy associated with pregnancy and early infant deaths than people imagine, and the charity is doing ground-breaking research into the causes. I started the book almost immediately after Jennifer died. We wanted something good to come out of our adversity."
The result, a collection of eight biographical essays on his heroes, entitled 'Courage'. It will be released on June 7. (More)

In his private life, Brown has needed all the bravery he could muster. Referring to his two sons, John, three, and Fraser, eight months old, Brown said "The boys are our lives. They are just an amazing gift, and when John was born, it was such an exciting occasion. To know he was healthy was incredibly important."

The messages of congratulations included a phone call from Nelson Mandela, one of his heroes, and it seemed that the Browns' trauma was finally over. But their second son was diagnosed soon after birth as having cystic fibrosis, a disease that kills many sufferers in early adulthood.

"Obviously, we've had difficulties with Fraser, but I hope he's going to come through all that. It's incredible having two lively young children who are doing so well."

Despite possible medical breakthroughs on the horizon, the disease is currently incurable. Parents of sufferers are taught how to do the daily chest massages vital to help loosen sticky mucus in the lungs.

Even for the Browns, there was a period of anguish when they were first told that their son had the genetic condition. "You start by thinking: "Why us?"

"Then we thought we just had to get on with it, and that we could actually make something good come out of it," Brown said.

Asked whether the leadership is securely in his grasp, he said "nothing is inevitable, nothing's certain, particularly in politics. Things go up and down, look better and look worse and, if you believe what you're doing, you've just got to keep going and make the best of it."

To a question whether he expected a leadership contest, Brown said "I think there probably will be one. I just say to people that if they want to stand, then please feel free to do so, because I'm ready to put my views and experience to the test. That's what a leadership contest is about. That's what normally happens."

On whether he wished that Blair had pushed off sooner, Brown said: "I always say it was for Tony to decide what he wanted to do. He has made a huge contribution. As in any political relationship, ours has had its ups and downs, but we have tried to do a lot for the country together."

Asked whether he feared losing a leadership contest, the Chancellor said "the only thing that matters to me is doing the right thing. If I thought it was time to do something else, such as charity or community work, then I would do it.

"If I can't make a difference in the job I'm doing... then I shall move on. But at the moment, I think I've got the experience and an idea of how the potential of this country can best be realised."

"At the moment, I feel I have something to offer for the future, but if there came a time when it was right to move on, it wouldn't particularly worry me. People often talk about someone like me as a career politician. But I'm not. I'd rather do something useful than be in any particular job.

"... The things I've tried to do in the last few years have offered an enormous set of challenges. When you've got a very young family, you're aware of all sorts of different things you can do," Brown said.

The Brown family would make attractive occupants of the prime ministerial flat, the report said. Sensible, hard-working and lacking vanity or pretension, Sarah Brown has a style and manner that would strike a chord of empathy with most mothers.

First Published: Apr 29, 2007 16:19 IST