Former PM Gordon Brown – whose relationship with Tony Blair is the subject of a new BBC2 documentary series – started in politics early. When he was 12, he told Sue Lawley on Desert Island Discs in 1996, he offered his support to a local Labour candidate, who “didn’t actually think he needed my help”. The son of a Scottish Calvinist minister, Brown, now 70, grew up in Fife and went to church twice every Sunday. The first time he was left at home on his own, he invited a beggar into the house and offered him food, as the Bible taught he should. His parents returned to find the “town’s leading housebreaker” in their kitchen.
Brown went to Edinburgh University at the age of 16, blind in one eye from a school rugby injury. In 1996 he was shadow chancellor and still single. “People want to know,” Lawley asked, shockingly, “whether you’re gay or whether there’s some flaw in your personality.” Brown replied: “It just hasn’t happened” – but he denied being a “loner”. (And he got married four years later.) He did admit to having a messy office. He was burgled once, and the police officer said his study had been “ransacked”. “I had to tell him that the thieves hadn’t been in the study.”