Useful Notes: Gordon Brown

Thank God that's o'er wae.

"You might have liked Tony more... but you'll hate my wife less."
Andy Parsons, Mock the Week

"In the news this week, the polls continue to slide for Gordon Brown and some people are saying he's dead and buried. But I think the opposite — I say GORDON'S ALIVE!!!"
(a scene later)
"I mean this is Gordon Brown's worst week in politics since last week..."

For ten years between 1997 and 2007 Gordon Brown was the dull but, generally, steady pair of hands at the controls of the British economy. Then he became Prime Minister.

History may well record this as one of the worst job moves ever.

In this age of media, poor Gordon had a major disadvantage: he was boring. There is no way around this. Being boring, dull and careful are virtues for a Chancellor but a handicap for a Head of Government. His popularity became so low that at the D-Day memorial celebrations British Veterans, who had clapped politely for the German Chancellor, booed and jeered their own Prime Minister, admittedly in the midst of an expenses scandal which had severely reduced the public's opinion of their MPs, if they were naive enough to be disappointed by the appalling tales that came around. Possibly the only PM since Spencer Perceval to have his entire Cabinet as The Starscream, although his old rival and Business Secretary Peter Mandelson and Foreign Secretary (as well as former crony of Tony Blair) David Miliband really stand out. Because of this he was seen as a bit of a Woobie in some quarters.

He actually holds a doctorate from Edinburgh university, but no one refers to him as Dr. Brown, because it sounds a bit silly, even for a country where the armed forces were led by General Sir Michael Jackson and Air Chief Marshal Sir Graham "Jock" Stirrup. Gordon Brown has the distinction of being only the fifth Prime Minster to have attended a university other than Oxford or Cambridge (along with the Earl of Bute, The Viscount Palmerston, Lord John Russell and Neville Chamberlain), and the third to have attended Edinburgh (after Palmerston and Russell, although Russell never graduated; another eleven Prime Ministers didn't go to university).

He was blinded in one eye after a rugby accident in his youth and later discovered that he has two small tears in his other eye, but they are not serious enough to require surgery.

Shortly after replacing Tony Blair as Prime Minister - the latter had stood down - Brown came close to calling a general election, going so far as to unofficially brief the media that this was imminent. Ultimately a mixture of poor polls and by-election results convinced Labour that their majority would be significantly cut, and the election was nipped in the bud despite the fact that he was reasonably popular during the first stages of the economic crisis, which led to accusations that he was a "bottler". Although Blair had benefited from a string of unappealing Conservative leaders of the opposition, Brown found himself up against the relatively young and media-savvy David Cameron. Rumours of bullying, smear campaigns, an addiction to anti-depressants, and an apparent inability to acknowledge a role in an ongoing financial crisis alienated the British public and, even more damagingly, the media that Tony Blair had so carefully courted.

He eventually served as Prime Minister for almost three years, until 11 May 2010, seeing out the remainder of the term that Tony Blair had won. The election on the previous Thursday, 6 May, had resulted in no party gaining overall control of the House of Commons, leaving the Liberal Democrats holding the balance of power and the Conservatives with most votes and seats, after a campaign that saw Brown get overheard on microphone calling a woman "bigoted." note 

Brown stayed on waiting to see there would be a Conservative-Liberal Democrat deal as per the rules of British elections which state that until a new PM is declared the old one has to stay in office no matter how badly he lost. A Labour-Lib Dem agreement looked briefly possible when Brown stepped down as Labour leader, but the parliamentary mathematics (which would have needed Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru support for an overall majority) never really added up, and that there was no clear leader to direct the negotiations with the Lib Dems also reportedly damaged their chances. (The Lib Dems were mainly using the possibility of an agreement with Labour to extract concessions from the Conservatives anyway, according to Andrew Rawnsley.)

He resigned and was succeeded by David Cameron, ending 13 years of Labour rule.

Famously, he once accidentally claimed to have "saved the world".(50 seconds into the video.) More recently, some commentators have credited him with saving the United Kingdom. During the final days before the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, the No campaign managed to get his motor running again and he delivered a widely-praised barnstorming speech.

Gordon Brown provides examples of:

  • Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: Would you believe that for such a seemingly boring man, he once had a relationship with the Princess of Romania while in university? The Princess and her family had fled to the UK after Romania disbanded the monarchy, which is how she ended up meeting Brown at Edinburgh. A mutual friend of theirs described their relationship like this, calling her 'sweet and gentle' in contrast to Brown's dour demeanour.
    • Unfortunately it didn't work out. In the words of Princess Margareta herself, "It was a very solid and romantic story. I never stopped loving him but one day it didn't seem right any more, it was politics, politics, politics, and I needed nurturing." Which technically makes this an averted trope.
  • Eagleland Osmosis: A frequently raised criticism of Brown was that he was 'not elected' — i.e that he wasn't elected to the post of Prime Minister by the voters during a national election — and that this invalidated his premiership. This seems to stem from a misunderstanding of the British system of government — unlike the American system (where the people directly vote for the presidential candidate), in Britain people vote for their local representative during elections, and no Prime Minister has technically been 'elected' in this fashion; the Prime Minister is merely the person who has been elected by the members of the party who has secured a majority of seats in the House of Commons to act as their leader. Gordon Brown won both his parliamentary seat and the leadership contest when Tony Blair stood down — granted, he was unopposed in the latter, and in practice national elections often act as votes on the effectiveness of the Prime Minister.
    • It wasn't just misunderstanding; the Opposition frequently dug into him for it, seizing upon the opportunity. In part this was because, in the British system, the Prime Minister has the power to call a new election at any time he chooses, thus Brown could have given the public the chance to elect him, or rather re-elect his party, in order to legitimise his leadership. At one point it was rumoured he was going to do just that, and so when he didn't it looked like it was because Labour would have been trounced and he would no longer be PM, even though he had no real obligation to do so and the other parties were the ones really making it seem like it was going to happen.
  • Evil Chancellor: This is how some of Blair's stronger supporters viewed Brown.
    • Before becoming Prime Minister he really was a Chancellor (of the Exchequer).
  • History Repeats Itself: Brown was sometimes compared to the Earl of Bute, another spectacularly unpopular Scottish Prime Minister who didn't go to Oxbridge. He was even also responsible for a much hated cider tax!
  • Hypocritical Humor: The Sun tore into him for misspelling the veteran's mother Jane's name "James". Their own website spelled it "Jones", making the same mistake covering the story.
    • Also, you'd think the partisan arguments about debt would be damped by the fact that history forms a surprisingly neat mirror image under the Conservatives and Labour. In '87 it was 45%, it shrunk to 28% by '91, then crept back up to 45% again by '97. Then it went from 45% to 28% again by 2002, then crept back up to about 45% again in 2008.... then the recession hits and it goes off the charts.
  • I Am Very British: Not an example. But when the "bigot" affair went round the world, Jon Stewart does his "finishing sentences from news footage" bit in an RP accent even though you can clearly hear Gordon started them in a Scottish accent.
  • Is This Thing Still On?: Be warned politicians, these days they clip the flipping things to your lapels. He had a meeting with a voter so terse he dashed off to his car afterward to call her "a sort of bigoted woman", but not fast enough to get out of its operational range.
    • Facepalm: And when he had to apologise on radio, when they played their recording of his comments to him he gave himself a huge facepalm. And this is another example of Is This Thing Still On?, because he didn't notice a camera was there to catch it!
      • Spin doctors watched in horror and shouted at each other as the facepalm footage was broadcast live. Their reaction was also caught on camera.
    • Ian Martin's The Coalition Chronicles points out (in its usual profane manner) that given that they were effectively bugging the Prime Minister's vehicle, Sky News had actually broken the law by recording from the mic while he was in the car.
  • Name's the Same: Averted. He was christened James Gordon Brown, but decided to go with the middle name.
  • National Stereotypes: An unbelievably easy target, as his two defining characteristics are very cliche for Scotsmen - Dourness and an obsession with managing money.
  • Perpetual Frowner: Brown always seemed to look miserably which only served to complement the "dour scot" image he was infamous for.
  • Punny Name: "Brown" is both a very common name and and very common word. To his allies, he is Capability Brown who puts the economy into Brownian Motion. To his enemies he and his friends are just Brown-nosers. and he once genuinely introduced himself "Not flash, just Gordon". This was mocked as "Crash Gordon". Right-wing forums would often respond to the latest "incident" with the words Brown=toast etc.
  • Rugby Is Slaughter: As stated above, Brown become blind in his left eye after he was kicked in the head during a rugby union match when he was a student.
  • The Starscream: Brown was this to Tony Blair and then his entire cabinet did the same to him. Like the real Starscream, he was better at taking over the place than he was at actually running it.
  • Thrifty Scot: Along with his dourness (also a stereotypically Scottish trait), this was the source of innumerable jokes during his tenure; it was particularly prominent while he was Chancellor.
  • Took a Level in Badass: During the Scottish referendum campaign.
  • Totally Radical: He made many rather unconvincing attempts to look more in touch with the youth by claiming to like various modern phenomena, most famously the Arctic Monkeys and The X Factor. (Note that at least some of these may have been true, but Brown's manner was such that they sounded like fake claims even if they weren't). He also made the statement that Optimus Prime could solve the problems in our world to the news media, leading to some confusion.
  • The Un-Smile: After a few pictures of him smiling, people came to appreciate his usual dourness so much more. To quote Russell Howard: "His smile is so unnatural that every time he does it, a fairy dies!"
    • That it was clearly an attempt at a staged smile lead to it being lampshaded by Jeremy Clarkson;
    Jeremy Clarkson: Who told him to smile... and then why did no-one tell him to stop?

Media provides the following examples of Gordon Brown:

  • Gordon Brown appears in Captain Britain and MI-13, one of the "Secret Invasion" tie-ins revolving around Captain Britain and the Skrull Invasion of Britain. He gives the main characters the orders to secure the source of British magic, or something like that. Notable, as much as anything, for the response it raised in the media, which ranged from mild amusement to outright disgust.
  • He is played by David Morrissey in the 2003 TV film The Deal.
  • Private Eye have two separate Brown parodies, one in which he releases Soviet-esque "Prime Ministerial Decrees" (a reference to how one MP said he had "Stalinist Tendencies" in 2007) and a comic strip called The Broon-ites (a parody of The Broons) written in Scots, where the Cabinet are presented as all members of 'Pa Broon'`s extended family. They also did a one-shot parody Peanuts strip starring Gordon Brown rather than Charlie, ending with Snoopy calling him a loser to which he responds with the traditional "Good Grief!"
  • South Park: "Pinewood Derby" - He appears as one of the world leaders. He's just about recognizable through the South Park animation filter, and unlike The Daily Show, he has the only other accent British people have in America - Cockney lite.
  • Given much better treatment in The Salvation War, where he had the "fortune" to have a far more pressing matter than the late '00s economic crisis happen, that of the biblical apocalypse. And he becomes famous in-universe for being the first world leader to actually respond to the demonic heralds of Hell: "Sod off, Baldrick." using a Blackadder reference to be intentionally dismissive of them. He then formed a coalition government with David Cameron's Tories and will most likely be heading this government throughout the events of the trilogy.
  • In The Thick of It the Invisible President Tom Davis seems to have been based on Brown. We never see him but the other characters point out the similarities:
    Malcolm Tucker: He'll be all right as long as he doesn't do the smile.
  • He is a recurring character in the BBC Radio 4 comedy 15 Minute Musical.
  • Appears in Garth Ennis's Crossed comic as prime minister during the titular infection's initial outbreak, and for much of the comic he struggles with indecisiveness in the face of a viral (and later nuclear) apocalypse. However he does manage to eventually start coordinating an effective response to both, leading to the nuclear threat being averted, and having viable plans to mitigate the damage from the viral threat. The series being what it is though, the latter is rendered sadly moot as the infection inexplicably arises within Brown's bunker, and he is killed moments after said bunker is sealed, leaving the UK leaderless and thus without any coordinated response to the apocalyptic pandemic.