ENG: James Gordon Brown (born 20 February 1951) is a British Labour Party politician who was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Labour Party from 2007 until 2010. He previously served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Labour Government from 1997 to 2007, the longest-serving holder of the office in modern history. Brown has been a Member of Parliament (MP) since 1983, currently for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath.
Brown became Prime Minister in June 2007, after the resignation of Tony Blair and three days after becoming leader of the governing Labour Party. His tenure ended in May 2010, when he resigned as Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour Party. Brown was one of only three people to serve in the Cabinet continuously from Labour's victory in 1997 until its defeat in 2010, the others being Jack Straw and Alistair Darling.
Brown has a PhD in history from the University of Edinburgh and spent his early career working as a lecturer at a further education college and a television journalist. He has been a Member of Parliament since 1983; first for Dunfermline East and since 2005 for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath.
As Prime Minister, he also held the offices of First Lord of the Treasury and the Minister for the Civil Service.
Brown's time as Chancellor was marked by major reform of Britain's monetary and fiscal policy architecture, transferring interest rate setting powers to the Bank of England, by a wide extension of the powers of the Treasury to cover much domestic policy and by transferring responsibility for banking supervision to the Financial Services Authority. Controversial moves included the abolition of advance corporation tax (ACT) relief in his first budget, and the removal in his final budget of the 10% "starting rate" of personal income tax which he had introduced in 1999.
After initial rises in opinion polls following Brown's selection as leader, Labour performed poorly in local and European election results in 2009. A year later, Labour lost 91 seats in the House of Commons at the 2010 general election, the party's biggest loss of seats in a single general election since 1931, giving the Conservative Party a plurality and resulting in a hung parliament. On 10 May 2010, Brown announced he would stand down as leader of the Labour Party, and instructed the party to put into motion the processes to elect a new leader. On 11 May 2010, Brown officially resigned as Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour Party.
He was succeeded as Prime Minister by David Cameron, and on 25 September 2010, he was succeeded as Leader of the Labour Party by Ed Miliband.
Early life and career before Parliament
Gordon Brown was born at the Orchard Maternity Nursing Home in Giffnock, Renfrewshire, Scotland. His father was John Ebenezer Brown (1914–1998), a minister of the Church of Scotland and a strong influence on Brown. His mother Jessie Elizabeth Souter, known as Bunty, died in 2004 aged 86. She was the daughter of John Souter, a timber merchant. Gordon was brought up with his brothers John and Andrew Brown in a manse in Kirkcaldy — the largest town in Fife, Scotland across the Firth of Forth from Edinburgh.
In common with many other notable Scots, he is therefore often referred to as a "son of the manse".
Brown was educated first at Kirkcaldy West Primary School where he was selected for an experimental fast stream education programme, which took him two years early to Kirkcaldy High School for an academic hothouse education taught in separate classes. At age 16 he wrote that he loathed and resented this "ludicrous" experiment on young lives.
He was accepted by the University of Edinburgh to study history at the same early age of 16. During an end-of-term rugby union match at his old school he received a kick to the head and suffered a retinal detachment. This left him blind in his left eye, despite treatment including several operations and weeks spent lying in a darkened room. Later at Edinburgh, while playing tennis, he noticed the same symptoms in his right eye.
Brown underwent experimental surgery at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and his eye was saved. Brown graduated from Edinburgh with First Class Honours MA in 1972, and stayed on to complete his PhD (which he gained ten years later in 1982), titled The Labour Party and Political Change in Scotland 1918–29. In 1972, while still a student, Brown was elected Rector of the University of Edinburgh, the convener of the University Court. He served as Rector until 1975, and also edited the document The Red Paper on Scotland.
From 1976 to 1980 Brown was employed as a lecturer in Politics at Glasgow College of Technology. In the 1979 general election, he stood for the Edinburgh South constituency, losing to the Conservative candidate, Michael Ancram.
From 1980 he worked as a journalist at Scottish Television, later serving as current affairs editor until his election to parliament in 1983. He also worked as a tutor for the Open University.
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Brown's ten years and two months as Chancellor of the Exchequer made him the longest-serving Chancellor in modern history. The Prime Minister's website highlights some achievements from Brown's decade as Chancellor: making the Bank of England independent and delivering an agreement on poverty and climate change at the G8 summit in 2005.
Run up to succeeding Tony Blair
In October 2004, Tony Blair announced he would not lead the party into a fourth general election, but would serve a full third term. Political comment over the relationship between Brown and Blair continued up to and beyond the 2005 election, which Labour won with a reduced parliamentary majority and reduced vote share. Blair announced on 7 September 2006 that he would step down within a year. Brown was the clear favourite to succeed Blair; he was the only candidate spoken of seriously in Westminster. Appearances and news coverage leading up to the handover were interpreted as preparing the ground for Brown to become Prime Minister, in part by creating the impression of a statesman with a vision for leadership and global change. This enabled Brown to signal the most significant priorities for his agenda as Prime Minister; speaking at a Fabian Society conference on 'The Next Decade' in January 2007, he stressed education, international development, narrowing inequalities (to pursue 'equality of opportunity and fairness of outcome'), renewing Britishness, restoring trust in politics, and winning hearts and minds in the war on terror as key priorities.
Brown ceased to be Chancellor and became the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on 27 June 2007. Like all modern Prime Ministers, Brown concurrently served as the First Lord of the Treasury and the Minister for the Civil Service, and was a member of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom. Until his resignation from the post in May 2010 he was Leader of the Labour Party. He is Member of Parliament for the constituency of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath. He is the sixth post-war prime minister, of a total of 12, to assume the role without having won a general election. Brown was the first prime minister from a Scottish constituency since the Conservative Sir Alec Douglas-Home in 1964. He was also one of only five prime ministers who attended a university other than Oxford or Cambridge, along with the Earl of Bute (Leiden), Lord John Russell (Edinburgh), Andrew Bonar Law (University of Glasgow), and Neville Chamberlain (Mason Science College, later Birmingham). Brown proposed moving some traditional prime ministerial powers conferred by royal prerogative to the realm of Parliament, such as the power to declare war and approve appointments to senior positions. Brown wanted Parliament to gain the right to ratify treaties and have more oversight into the intelligence services. He also proposed moving some powers from Parliament to citizens, including the right to form "citizens' juries", easily petition Parliament for new laws, and rally outside Westminster. He asserted that the attorney general should not have the right to decide whether to prosecute in individual cases, such as in the loans for peerages scandal.
During his Labour leadership campaign Brown proposed some policy initiatives which he called 'The manifesto for change.' The manifesto included a clampdown on corruption and a new Ministerial Code, which set out clear standards of behaviour for ministers. Brown also stated in a speech when announcing his bid that he wants a "better constitution" that is "clear about the rights and responsibilities of being a citizen in Britain today". He planned to set up an all-party convention to look at new powers for Parliament and to look at rebalancing powers between Whitehall and local government. Brown said he would give Parliament the final say on whether British troops are sent into action in future. Brown said he wanted to release more land and ease access to ownership with shared equity schemes. He backed a proposal to build new eco-towns, each housing between 10,000 and 20,000 home-owners — up to 100,000 new homes in total. Brown also said he wanted to have doctors' surgeries open at the weekends, and GPs on call in the evenings. Doctors were given the right of opting out of out-of-hours care in 2007, under a controversial pay deal, signed by then-Health Secretary John Reid, which awarded them a 22% pay rise in 2006. Brown also stated in the manifesto that the NHS was his top priority. There was speculation during September and early October 2007 about whether Brown would call a snap general election. Brown announced that there would be no election in the near future and seemed to rule out an election in 2008. His political opponents accused him of being indecisive, which Brown denied. In July 2008 Brown supported a new bill extending this pre-charge detention period to 42 days. The bill was met with opposition on both sides of the House and backbench rebellion. In the end the bill passed by just 9 votes. The House of Lords defeated the bill, with Lords characterising it as "fatally flawed, ill thought through and unnecessary", stating that "it seeks to further erode fundamental legal and civil rights".
Brown was mentioned by the press in the expenses crisis for claiming for the payment of his cleaner. However, no wrongdoing was found and the Commons Authority did not pursue Brown over the claim. Meanwhile, the Commons Fees Office stated that a double payment for a £153 plumbing repair bill was a mistake on their part and that Brown had repaid it in full.
Brown announced on 10 May 2010 that he would stand down as Labour Leader, with a view to a successor being chosen before the next Labour Party Conference in September 2010. The following day, negotiations between the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats failed. During the evening, Brown visited Buckingham Palace to tender his resignation as Prime Minister to Queen Elizabeth II and to recommend that she invite the Leader of the Opposition, David Cameron, to form a government. He resigned as leader of the Labour Party with immediate effect.
Personal life and family
Brown's early girlfriends included the journalist Sheena McDonald and Princess Margarita, the eldest daughter of exiled King Michael of Romania. At the age of 49, Brown married Sarah Macaulay in a private ceremony at his home in North Queensferry, Fife, on 3 August 2000. They have two children, John Macaulay and James Fraser. In November 2006, James Fraser was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. On 28 December 2001 a daughter, Jennifer Jane, was born prematurely and died on 7 January 2002 one day after suffering a brain haemorrhage.
Gordon Brown commented at the time that their recent experiences had changed him and his wife. Sarah Brown rarely makes official appearances either with or without her husband. She is inevitably much sought after to give interviews. She is, however, patron of several charities and has written articles for national newspapers related to this. At the 2008 Labour Party Conference, Sarah caused surprise by taking to the stage to introduce her husband for his keynote address. Since then, her public profile has increased.
He has two brothers, John Brown and Andrew Brown. Andrew has been Head of Media Relations in the UK for the French-owned utility company EDF Energy since 2004. Whilst PM he spent some of his spare time at Chequers, the house often being filled with friends. They have also entertained local dignitaries like Sir Leonard Figg. Brown is als. a friend of Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling, who says of Brown "I know him as affable, funny and gregarious, a great listener, a kind and loyal friend."