James Gordon Brown (born 20 February 1951) is a British politician who was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the Leader of the Labour Party from 2007 to 2010. He previously served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Blair Government from 1997 to 2007, which made Brown the pair of hands at the controls of the British economy. Then he became Prime Minister.
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, whose popularity, especially in the media, became quite low. At the 2009 D-Day memorial celebrations, a small group of British Veterans clapped politely for the German Chancellor then booed as Gordon Brown began his speech, demanding to know where the Queen was. The media claimed at the time that Downing Street had asked the then French president Sarkozy to not invite the Queen so that Brown could get in more photo opportunities with the then US president Obama. However, the same veterans gave the prime minister's speech a standing ovation and later insisted the booing was "jokey" - they later on sang "Why are we waiting?" at the French prime minister because they were forced to stand in the rain.
Being placed up against two kings of spin, David Cameron and Tony Blair did not help, an attempt to compete with them in the 2010 elections became infamous for his painful un-smile and clear discomfort in front of a camera. He also struggled with a reputation of being after Blair's job; his rivalry with Blair was heavily played up in the media.
He holds a doctorate from Edinburgh university. 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 - the media and some ministers began speculating about the possibility of an election being called. When Brown finally announced there would be no election, it was after weeks of media hype and several poor polls and by-election results, leading to the media image that he was indecisive and a "bottler". Labour's reputation never recovered and political writers have described Gordon Brown's delayed response to the speculation as the biggest political mistake of his career. 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, whose reputation had been climbing in the polls and media since before Blair stepped down as prime minister. Rumours of bullying, smear campaigns, an addiction to anti-depressants, and a rejection of claims made by the media and Conservatives that he had a role in the ongoing global financial crisis, alienated the media that Tony Blair had carefully courted, and inevitably the British public as well.
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". While she had badgered him, repeatedly asking, "Where are all these Eastern Europeans flocking from?" and being viewed by the public as indeed bigoted, his reaction was a media gift: he backed down, said she wasn't a bigot and that he'd misunderstood her words. His team were robbed of the chance to defend him against the media, and the British public viewed that as yet another of example of his mistakes.
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, Plaid Cymru and SDLP support for an overall majority) never really added up; there was also no clear leader to direct the negotiations with the Lib Dems, which 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.
In a gaffe of Al Gore proportions, he once accidentally stated "we saved the world" (50 seconds into the video). What he was trying to say was "we not only worked with other countries to save the world's banking system..." (1:25 minutes into the video) and that his recapitalisation plan had protected every depositor's deposit in Britain.
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. The REMAIN campaign in the referendum on continued UK membership of The European Union attempted the same tactic two years later, but they were not successful. Ironically, as PM Brown had reneged on a Labour manifesto commitment to call a referendum on passage of the Treaty of Lisbon, forcing it through Parliament and thus ratifying it and allowing it to come into force. By the time David Cameron (whose party also supported a referendum) was elected in 2010, it was too late to reverse it. Why is this ironic? Because the Treaty of Lisbon contained a provision (Article 50) allowing for any member state to withdraw from the EU - a provision that had never existed beforenote . Had the referendum taken place and NO won the daynote the treaty would not have come into forcenote and the UK might not have even been able to leave the EU, even if the government wanted it to.
Otherwise, Brown's policy vis-a-vis the EU is generally well-regarded, though more for his tenure as Chancellor than as PM: the British economy showed itself to be a poor fit for the euro and opted to stick with the pound, which was all down to Brown's "Five-Point" quiz (which the euro flunked). This was during a time when the UK was criticized for lobbing a wrench into the European project. Doesn't look like such a bad call in hindsight. Even his decision to not call an early election as PM in 2007 has been revisited, after Theresa May became PM in similar circumstances to Brown, did call a snap election and managed to take her party to a shock loss of its majority.
Media provides the following examples of Gordon Brown:
- Gordon Brown appears in Captain Britain and MI13, 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 (2003).
- 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.