When historians of British politics look back on the events of this week, they might say that nothing in Gordon Brown's political career became him like the leaving of it.
Brown's announcement yesterday that he would give up the leadership of the Labour Party within the next few months had what seems to have been its intended effect. That was to shift the Liberal Democrats' focus away from a potential coalition with the Conservative Party, and toward a coalition with Labour and some of the small regional parties.
Despite the Liberal Democrats' rhetoric about giving the Conservatives the first chance to form a government, it now seems as though they have maneuvered themselves into a position of being able to choose between Labour and the Conservatives as coalition partner. A report this morning on the BBC World Service opined that Brown's announcement caused this shift in focus.
There was really no news in Brown's statement. Everyone assumed that he would be leaving, one way or the other. If Labour ends up being shut out of government, his own party will want to replace him. On the other hand, if Labour enters into a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, that latter party will probably insist on Brown's resignation as a necessary condition for entering into an agreement.
But, apparently, the timing of it, and the language of it, might turn it into a game-changer. Having said that, it's still quite possible that a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition will come together. If Brown's gambit succeeds, however, observers will be amazed that a leader thought to have a tin ear and a bad sense of timing, finally gave an example of eloquence and effective timing, right at the end of his time as party leader. Hence, the above paraphrase from Macbeth.