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Brown bows out in thunder and tears

The short cul-de-sac that is Downing Street has been the scene of many momentous events in its 300-year history, but few as dramatic or moving as Gordon Brown's tearful farewell last night.

With the words "Thank you and goodbye", he ended a short but gracious valedictory speech.

This most reticent and reserved of men then returned to that famous front door with his wife, Sarah, and together they brought out their sons John (6) and Fraser (3) for their first public appearance.

Mr Brown kissed his children on their heads. As they walked towards the official blue Jaguar that would take him to Buckingham Palace to tender his resignation, the tears were clearly visible in his eyes.

There was good cause. For Mr Brown (59) this was the end of a lifetime in politics, 13 years at the topmost level of government and one month short of three years as prime minister. It was also the end of the great new Labour project that he helped to shape, and that has in turn reshaped Britain.

The conventional wisdom was that Mr Brown would have to be prised from Downing Street -- a notion that had to be rapidly revised when removal vans were seen arriving at the back of the prime minister's residence.


A crowd of hundreds gathered beyond the gates in Whitehall, waiting to witness a moment in history. At 7.10pm, with spots of rain falling and a distant peal of thunder adding to the drama, two flunkeys emerged to place a lectern outside the front door.

Then, at 7.18pm, the front door opened again and Mr Brown emerged, smiling, with Sarah as the staff applauded inside.

He made his short farewell speech then the Browns left their sons with a nanny and climbed into the Jaguar.

There was no parting gibe at the media like Cherie Blair's "We won't miss you" and no tearful last glance back like Margaret Thatcher.

Mr Brown smiled at his wife as the car drove them out towards Whitehall where the crowd parted, applauded and some gave three cheers.