Brown: life, legacy and the future


Yesterday, the prolific politician Gordon Brown announced that he is standing down after a 32 year career in the House of Commons. In those 32 years, Brown was the longest-serving modern Chancellor of the Exchequer, from 1997 to 2007, and then became Prime Minister from 2007 to 2010.

The BBC writes about Brown:

To his opponents, Gordon Brown was one of the worst prime ministers of the post-war era, a man whose ambition outpaced his ability. To his supporters, he was a giant of his age, a politician who helped save the global economy and the United Kingdom.”

One of only five modern Prime Ministers to be educated somewhere other than Oxford or Cambridge, Brown overcame blindness in his left eye to become a top figure in the Labour Party for nearly twenty years and execute a vision for the future of the country. During his time as Chancellor, Brown had a major impact on Britain’s monetary policy, making the Bank of England responsible for setting interest rates and keeping Britain off the Euro.

During his time as Prime Minister, when faced with the financial crisis, Brown once again showed economic leadership, convening global heads of state at the 2009 G20 Summit and passing a $5 trillion worldwide stimulus package credited with avoiding a global depression. Displaying his vision for Britain in other arenas, Brown looked at rebalancing powers between the PM and Parliament, and more recently became a bold voice in the Scottish referendum debate.

Brown has not been without his critics. He was known to be difficult to work with, and at times was attacked as indecisive. He saw the biggest losses for Labour in local government in 40 years, and his leadership was challenged many times by those within his own party.

However, despite these criticisms, it is undeniable that Brown has been a defining figure in politics. A Guardian reporter writes:

He may not have saved the world, but Brown can legitimately claim to have saved the pound, the global financial system and the union.”

Brown has eschewed the possibility of returning to Westminster as a member of the House of Lords, saying that he will be staying in Fife to focus on the community, his children, and charity work with his wife - he is active internationally as a UN Special Envoy for Education. He is sure to be watching further developments in Scottish politics closely, as he set out a timetable for devolving more powers to the Scottish Parliament. It will be interesting to see what he chooses to do next.

Ruth Hirsch