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Gordon Brown, the Leader of the United Kingdom Essay (Biography)

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Updated: Jun 2nd, 2022

Introduction

Gordon Brown is the current Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He became Prime Minister after the previous office bearer Tony Blair stepped down in June 2007. Three days before ascending to the premiership, Gordon Brown was elected leader of the governing Labour Party; a party that ousted the Conservatives in 1997 and has been in power since ever since. Before his current tenure as Prime Minister, Gordon Brown served as the Chancellor to the Exchequer from the time they came to power in 1997 to 2007.

His period in the office of the Exchequer though successful, would be remembered as a period when he fell out with his leader at that time Tony Blair, over his stubborn refusal to step down as Prime Minister so that Gordon Brown could take over; as they had planned when they came to power. (Allport, p 101)

Early Life

Born at Govan, Glasgow, Scotland to John Ebenezer Brown (A minister in the Church of Scotland) and Jessie Elizabeth Souter, Gordon Brown grew up with his brothers John and Andrew in Kirkcaldy, Fife Scotland. He attended Kirkcaldy West Primary School where he was fast-tracked through the system and this led to him joining Kirkcaldy High School two years earlier than his peers.

Due to his higher than average intellectual ability, Gordon was put through the controversial hothouse education in high school; “an experience he loathed” (Keegan, p 72). While still 16 years old, Gordon Brown miraculously graduated from high school and was accepted at the University of Edinburgh to pursue history. His earliest set back is seen when he suffers a serious eye injury after being kicked in the head while participating in a rugby union match at his former high school.

This left him blinded in one eye despite receiving several operations and even staying isolated in darkened rooms for weeks. To further compound his eyesight problem, Gordon started having similar problems with his right eye but this was later saved through an experimental procedure at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. Gordon Brown finally graduated from Edinburgh in 1972 with 1st class honors He later obtained his PhD in1982. (Bower, p 40)

Brown’s early political ambitions are reflected by his elected post as Rector of the University of Edinburgh. He served from 1972 to 1975. He also worked as editor of “The Red Paper on Scotland” from 1976 to 1980. It was in the 1979 general election that Gordon made his first major foray into the political world but he lost the Edinburgh South constituency race to Michael Ancram. Brown took a hiatus and worked at Scottish Television as a journalist and later as a current affairs editor until the parliamentary election in 1983. He was finally elected to parliament on a Labour ticket in 1983 as the MP of Dunfermline.

During his tenure in parliament, Brown was a key participant in the Scottish Constitutional Convention adding his signature to the “Claim of Right for Scotland” in 1989. Brown continued to be a strong voice in the Labour opposition party and he was “tipped as a potential party leader” (Rosen, p 90) after the untimely death of John Smith in May 1994. Quite surprisingly, he did not declare his candidacy for the post of party leader and the title subsequently went to the then favorite Tony Blair.

It was rumored that Blair promised Brown total control of his economic policy once Labour came to power in exchange for the party leadership. The validity of these rumors could never be substantiated but the reality was the two Labour stalwarts had to maintain a cordial relationship in public so as to secure party victory in 1997.However the relationship was frosty behind closed doors; as rumors suggested. Brown and the Labour party ran on a campaign of tackling inflation and increasing employment, issues that the Conservative Party had failed to deliver on

Chancellor of the Exchequer

Browns tenure in office of ten years and two months were the longest ever recorded by any Chancellor in office. He presided over “the longest ever period of growth” in UK’s history. The economic growth averaged 2.7% from the time Labour came to power up to 2006. The unemployment rate fell to 5.7% from the high rates of 7% in 1997. He also gave the Bank of England autonomy in operation of its monetary policy and setting of interest rates.

His other notable achievements included the transfer of responsibility of supervision of banks to the Financial Services Authority and changing of the inflation measure from “Retail Price Index to Consumer Price Index.” (Keegan, p 72) Brown also increased government spending to fund particularly the health and education sectors. The NHS was the biggest benefactor. In his other less popular endeavors, from 1999-2002 he sold off 60% of the UK’s gold reserves; a move that was termed disastrous.

Tony Blair announced in October 2004 that he would lead Labour party to a 4th general election and he planned to serve a full third term This affected an already fragile relationship with his Chancellor and analysts believe the private bickering between the two leaders reduced the party’s majority in 2005. Due to pressures from within his own ranks in the party, “Blair was forced to announce on 7 September 2007 that he would step down” (Allport, p 103) within a year Brown was the obvious candidate to succeed him and his “statesman” image and visions for leadership only worked to his advantage.

Prime Minister

Despite being labeled as a “control freak” and having a “Stalinist ruthlessness” during his time as Chancellor, Brown became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on 27th June 2007, the 6th out of 12 in post-war Britain to do so without winning a general election. In his short stint as Prime Minister, Brown has proposed transferring some of his traditional powers to parliament like the power to declare war.

He also advocated for “the right of parliament to ratify treaties and have more oversight in the intelligence services” (Allport, p 108). Brown has promised to introduce some much needed reforms during his tenure as Prime Minister. He has promised to end corruption including an introduction of a ministerial code that would set clear guidelines and standards regarding the conduct of ministers. This was probably a knee-jerk effect to the cash-for-honors scandal. He has also talked of constitutional reforms which is interesting since the UK has never had a constitution. A flexible Bill of Rights looks like the most likely option.

When it comes to housing, he has proposed to release more land and relax restrictions to ownership with shared equity schemes. He has also approved construction of new eco-towns that could accommodate between 10-20,000 homeowners. Addressing the Health sector, Brown plans to have doctor’s surgeries stay open over the weekends and for general practitioners to be on call in the evenings. He has stated that the NHS is his top priority yet he has shot himself in the foot by cutting the English NHS capital budget from 6.2 to 4.2 billion pounds.

Summary

Gordon Brown would probably be remembered for his campaign to cancel the foreign debts of 3rd world countries and his support for carbon credits to fight global warming. However, his current time as Prime Minister has been quite hectic with credit crunch and the collapse of Northern Rock History will judge him more on how he handles the current financial crisis than during his time as a Chancellor where he was once labeled as “totally un-collegiate”. He’ll need to come up with something from his brilliant mind to save the UK from the looming recession.

Works Cited

Allport Alan, Gordon Brown, Infobase Publishing, 2009, 99-105.

Bower Tom, Gordon Brown London: HarperCollins, 2003, pp 36-42.

Keegan William, The Prudence of Mr. Gordon Brown, Wiley, 2003, 69-78.

Rosen, Greg, Dictionary of Labour Biography. Methuen, 2002 Edition, pp 89-92.

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