Caricatured by critics as dour, colleagues praise his rigorous approach, Gordon Brown says he regrets his timidity.
Fifty-nine-year-old Brown became Britain’s unelected Prime Minister in June 2007 following Tony Blair’s resignation.
Ten years earlier legend has it they struck a deal in a London restaurant when Blair promised to give Brown control of economic policy in return for him not contesting a leadership election. He was left waiting in the wings as Chancellor, Britain’s finance minister.
He was a gifted child, who went to university two years early. He lost an eye playing rugby. He has a PhD in history and spent his early career working as a TV journalist. He became a member of parliament in 1983 and was made opposition spokesman on Trade and Industry.
Married to Sarah they have two boys. But their life has not been without tragedy. Their first child, Jennifer Jane was born prematurely and died barely a week later. The memory is a painful one and he recently shed a tear during a TV interview recalling those traumatic days.
Brown’s 10 years and two months as finance minister made him the longest serving incumbent in that post. He is renowned for making the Bank of England independent giving it responsibility for setting interest rates. He also placed banking supervision in the hands of the Financial Services authority which some analysts claim exacerbated the severity of the global banking crisis.
As prime minister Brown took the bold step of nationalising the failing Northern Rock bank setting a precedent for massive government bail-outs. The tactic was quickly adopted by his European counterparts. Alongside his Chancellor Alistair Darling he set about attempting to reverse the economic downturn with a policy of sustained fiscal intervention.
Tackling terrorism has been another test for Gordon Brown. Just days after he became Prime Minister. Islamic extremists attacked Glasgow airport. Ever since he has been treading a fine line between tightening security and preserving civil liberties.
And then there was the MPs expenses scandal when many Labour MPs and even members of the Cabinet were caught fiddling allowances and profiting from a lax parliamentary accounting system.
Then there were the attempted internal coups with rebel ministers calling on Gordon to hold a leadership election or step down.
After putting down the mutinies he had to contend with yet another scandal when outgoing ministers were accused of attempting to cash-in on their positions by selling their lobbying skills to the highest bidder.
Gordon Brown has managed to cut the Conservative lead in the polls during the run-up to the election but his gaffe when he called a lifelong Labour voter a “bigot” on the campaign trail put paid to his steady climb up the ratings ladder.
With the winning post in sight he is going to need a late spurt on the finishing straight.