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Gordon Brown

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The Right Honourable

Gordon Brown

Head and shoulders of a smiling man in a suit and striped tie with dark, greying hair and rounded face with square jaw
Gordon Brown in 2009
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
In office
27 June 2007 – 11 May 2010
Monarch Elizabeth II
Preceded by Tony Blair
Succeeded by David Cameron
Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
2 May 1997 – 27 June 2007
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Kenneth Clarke
Succeeded by Alistair Darling
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
18 July 1992 – 2 May 1997
Leader John Smith
Tony Blair
Preceded by John Smith
Succeeded by Kenneth Clarke
Shadow Secretary of State for Trade
In office
13 May 1985 – 18 July 1992
Leader Neil Kinnock
Preceded by Robin Cook
Succeeded by Margaret Beckett
Member of Parliament
for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath
Dunfermline East (1983–2005)
Assumed office
9 June 1983
Preceded by Constituency Created
Majority 23,009 (50.2%)
Personal details
Born (1951-02-20) 20 February 1951
Giffnock, Scotland, UK
Nationality British
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Sarah Brown
(m. 2000–present)
Children Jennifer Jane (deceased)
John Macaulay
James Fraser
Residence North Queensferry (Private)
Alma mater University of Edinburgh
Religion Church of Scotland
Signature Gordon Brown's signature

James Gordon Brown (born 20 February 1951) is a British Labour politician and the Member of Parliament for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath. He was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Labour Party from 2007 until 2010. Brown became Prime Minister in June 2007, after the resignation of Tony Blair and three days after becoming leader of the governing Labour Party. Immediately before this he had served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Labour Government from 1997 to 2007 under Tony Blair. His tenure ended in May 2010, when he resigned as Prime Minister and leader of the Labour party.

Brown has a PhD in History from the University of Edinburgh and spent his early career working as 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, 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, 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.

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.

Election to parliament and opposition

Gordon Brown was elected to Parliament on his second attempt as a Labour MP for Dunfermline East in 1983 general election. His first Westminster office mate was a newly elected MP from the Sedgefield constituency by the name of Tony Blair. Brown became opposition spokesman on Trade and Industry in 1985. In 1986, he published a biography of the Independent Labour Party politician James Maxton, the subject of his PhD thesis. Brown was Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury from 1987 to 1989 and then Shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, before becoming Shadow Chancellor in 1992. Having led the Labour Movement Yes campaign, refusing to join the cross-party Yes for Scotland campaign, during the 1979 Scottish devolution referendum, while other senior Labour politicians — including Robin Cook, Tam Dalyell and Brian Wilson – campaigned for a No vote, Brown was subsequently a key participant in the Scottish Constitutional Convention, signing the Claim of Right for Scotland in 1989.

After the sudden death of Labour leader John Smith in May 1994, Brown did not contest the leadership after Tony Blair became favourite. It has long been rumoured a deal was struck between Blair and Brown at the former Granita restaurant in Islington, in which Blair promised to give Brown control of economic policy in return for Brown not standing against him in the leadership election. Whether this is true or not, the relationship between Blair and Brown has been central to the fortunes of "New Labour", and they have mostly remained united in public, despite reported serious private rifts.

As Shadow Chancellor, Brown as Chancellor-in-waiting was seen as a good choice by business and the middle class. While he was Chancellor inflation sometimes exceeded the 2% target causing the Governor of the Bank of England to write several letters to the Chancellor, each time inflation exceeded three per cent. In 2005 following a reorganisation of parliamentary constituencies in Scotland, Brown became MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath at the 2005 election.

Chancellor of the Exchequer

Gordon Brown standing at a podium. Text on the podium states
Gordon Brown speaking at the annual World Bank/ IMF meeting in 2002

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.

Early macroeconomic reforms

On taking office as Chancellor of the Exchequer Brown gave the Bank of England operational independence in monetary policy, and thus responsibility for setting interest rates through the Bank's Monetary Policy Committee. At the same time he also changed the inflation measure from the Retail Price Index to the Consumer Price Index and transferred responsibility for banking supervision to the Financial Services Authority. Some commentators have argued that this division of responsibilities exacerbated the severity, in Britain, of 2007 global banking crisis.

Taxation and spending

In the 1997 election and subsequently, Brown pledged to not increase the basic or higher rates of income tax. Over his Chancellorship, he reduced the basic rate from 23% to 20%. However, in all but his final budget, Brown increased the tax thresholds in line with inflation, rather than earnings, resulting in fiscal drag. Corporation tax fell under Brown, from a main rate of 33% to 28%, and from 24% to 19% for small businesses. In 1999, he introduced a lower tax band of 10%. He abolished this 10% tax band in his last budget in 2007 to reduce the basic rate from 22% to 20%, increasing tax for 5 million people and, according to the calculations of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, leaving those earning between £5,000 and £18,000 as the biggest losers. According to the OECD UK taxation has increased from a 39.3% share of gross domestic product in 1997 to 42.4% in 2006, going to a higher level than Germany. This increase has mainly been attributed to active government policy, and not simply to the growing economy. Conservatives have accused Brown of imposing " stealth taxes". A commonly reported example resulted in 1997 from a technical change in the way corporation tax is collected, the indirect effect of which was for the dividends on stock investments held within pensions to be taxed, thus lowering pension returns and contributing to the demise of most of the final salary pension funds in the UK. The Treasury contends that this tax change was crucial to long-term economic growth.

Brown's 2000 Spending Review outlined a major expansion of government spending, particularly on health and education. In his April 2002 budget, Brown increased national insurance to pay for health spending. He also introduced working tax credits.

European single currency

In October 1997, Brown took control of the United Kingdom's membership of the European single currency issue by announcing the Treasury would set five economic tests to ascertain whether the economic case had been made. In June 2003 the Treasury indicated the tests had not been passed.

Other issues

In 2000, Brown was accused of starting a political row about higher education (referred to as the Laura Spence Affair) when he accused the University of Oxford of elitism in its admissions procedures, describing its decision not to offer a place to state school pupil Laura Spence as "absolutely outrageous". Lord Jenkins, then Oxford Chancellor and himself a former Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer, said "nearly every fact he used was false."

Between 1999 and 2002 Brown sold 60% of the UK's gold reserves shortly before gold entered a protracted bull market, since nicknamed by dealers as Brown Bottom. The official reason for selling the gold reserves was to reduce the portfolio risk of the UK's reserves by diversifying away from gold. Since then, the decision to sell the gold has been criticised.

During his time as Chancellor, Brown was reported to believe that it is appropriate to remove much of the unpayable Third World debt, but does not think that all debt should be erased. On 20 April 2006, in a speech to the United Nations Ambassadors, Brown outlined a " Green" view of global development.

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.

Prime Minister

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.

Foreign policy

Gordon Brown and President Barack Obama in the White House

Brown was committed to the Iraq War, but said in a speech in June 2007 that he would "learn the lessons" from the mistakes made in Iraq. Brown said in a letter published on 17 March 2008 that the United Kingdom will hold an inquiry into the Iraq war.

Brown has gone to great lengths to empathise with those who lost family members in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. He has often said "War is tragic", echoing Blair's memorable quote that "War is horrible". Nonetheless, in November 2007 Brown was accused by some senior military figures of not adhering to the ' military covenant', a convention within British politics stating that in exchange for them putting their lives at risk for the sake of national security, the armed forces should in turn be suitably looked after by the government.

Brown skipped the opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics, on 8 August 2008 in Beijing. He attended the closing ceremony instead, on 24 August 2008. Brown had been under intense pressure from human rights campaigners to send a message to China, concerning the 2008 Tibetan unrest. His decision not to attend the opening ceremony was not an act of protest, rather made several weeks in advance and not intended as a stand on principle.

In a speech in July 2007, Brown personally clarified his position regarding Britain's relationship with the USA "We will not allow people to separate us from the United States of America in dealing with the common challenges that we face around the world. I think people have got to remember that the relationship between Britain and America and between a British prime minister and an American president is built on the things that we share, the same enduring values about the importance of liberty, opportunity, the dignity of the individual. I will continue to work, as Tony Blair did, very closely with the American administration."

Brown and the Labour party had pledged to allow a referendum on the EU Treaty of Lisbon. On the morning of 13 December 2007, Foreign Secretary David Miliband attended for the Prime Minister at the official signing ceremony in Lisbon of the EU Reform Treaty. Brown's opponents on both sides of the House, and in the press, suggested that ratification by Parliament was not enough and that a referendum should also be held. Labour's 2005 manifesto had pledged to give British public a referendum on the original EU Constitution. Brown argued that the Treaty significantly differed from the Constitution, and as such did not require a referendum. He also responded with plans for a lengthy debate on the topic, and stated that he believed the document to be too complex to be decided by referendum.

Drug policy

During Brown's premiership, in October 2008, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) recommended to the then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith that cannabis remain classified as a Class C drug. Acting against the advice of the Council, she chose to reclassify it as class B. After Professor David Nutt, the chair of the ACMD, criticised this move in a lecture in 2009, he was asked to step down by the current Home Secretary Alan Johnson. Following his resignation, Professor Nutt said Gordon Brown had "made up his mind" to reclassify cannabis despite evidence to the contrary. Gordon Brown had argued, "I don't think that the previous studies took into account that so much of the cannabis on the streets is now of a lethal quality and we really have got to send out a message to young people – this is not acceptable". Professor Nutts predecessor at the ACMD, Sir Michael Rawlins, later said, "Governments may well have good reasons for taking an alternative view... When that happens, then the government should explain why it's ignoring the particular advice".

Global recession

Brown's premiership coincided with the global recession, during which the United Kingdom lead calls for fiscal action to stimulate aggregate demand. Domestically, Brown's administration introduced a range of measures including a bank rescue package worth around £500 billion (approximately $850 billion), a temporary 2.5% cut in Value Added Tax (Sales Tax) and a "car scrappage" scheme.

Plots against leadership

In mid-2008, Brown's leadership was presented with a challenge as some MPs openly called for him to resign. This event was dubbed the 'Lancashire Plot', as two backbenchers from (pre-1974) Lancashire urged him to step down and a third questioned his chances of holding on to the Labour Party leadership. Several MPs argued that if Brown did not recover in the polls by early 2009, he should call for a leadership contest. However, certain prominent MPs, such as Jacqui Smith and Bill Rammell, suggested that Brown was the right person to lead Britain through its economic crisis. In the Autumn, Siobhain McDonagh, a MP and junior government whip, who during her time in office had never voted against the government, spoke of the need for discussion over Brown's position. McDonagh was sacked from her role shortly afterwards, on 12 September. Whilst McDonagh did not state that she wanted Brown deposed, she implored the Labour party to hold a leadership election, she was sacked from her role shortly afterwards. McDonagh was supported by Joan Ryan (who applied, as McDonagh had, for leadership nomination papers, and became the second rebel to be fired from her job), Jim Dowd, Greg Pope, and a string of others who had previously held positions in government, made clear their desire for a contest. In the face of this speculation over Brown's future, his ministers backed him to lead the party, and Harriet Harman and David Miliband denied that they were preparing leadership bids. After Labour lost the Glasgow East by-election in July, Harman, the deputy leader of the party, said that Brown was the "solution", not the "problem"; Home Secretary Smith, Justice Secretary Jack Straw, Schools Secretary Ed Balls and Cabinet Office Minister Ed Miliband all re-affirmed their support for Brown. The deputy Prime Minister under Blair, John Prescott, also pledged his support. Foreign Secretary David Miliband then denied that he was plotting a leadership bid, when on 30 July, an article written by him in The Guardian was interpreted by a large number in the media as an attempt to undermine Brown. In the article, Miliband outlined the party's future, but neglected to mention the Prime Minister. Miliband, responded to this by saying that he was confident Brown could lead Labour to victory in the next general election, and that his article was an attack against the fatalism in the party since the loss of Glasgow-East. Miliband continued to show his support for Brown in the face of the challenge that emerged in September, as did Business Secretary John Hutton, Environment Secretary Hilary Benn, and Chief Whip Geoff Hoon.

On 6 January 2010, Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon jointly called for a secret ballot on the future of Brown's leadership. The call received little support and the following day Hoon said that it appeared to have failed and was "over". Brown later referred to the call for a secret ballot as a "form of silliness".

By-elections and 2009 local and European elections

Gordon Brown shakes hands with Vladimir Putin
Gordon Brown meeting then-Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2006

In the local elections on 1 May 2008, Labour suffered their worst results in 40 years finishing in third place with a projected 24% share of the national vote. Subsequently the party has seen the loss of by-elections in Nantwich and Crewe and Henley as well as slumps in the polls. A by-election in Glasgow East triggered by the resignation of David Marshall saw the Labour party struggle to appoint a candidate, eventually settling for Margaret Curran, a sitting MSP in the Scottish Parliament. The SNP, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have all derided the party for their disorganised nature with Alex Salmond commenting "This is their 'lost weekend' – they don't have a leader in Scotland, they don't have a candidate in Glasgow East, and they have a prime minister who refuses to come to the constituency". Labour lost the constituency to the Scottish National Party's John Mason who took 11,277 votes with Labour just 365 behind. The seat experienced a swing of 22.54%.

In the European elections, Labour polled 16% of the vote, finishing in third place behind the Conservatives and United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). Voter apathy was reflected in the historically low turnout of around thirty three percent. In Scotland voter turnout was only twenty eight per cent. In the local elections, Labour polled 23% of the vote, finishing in third place behind Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, with Labour losing control of the four councils it had held prior to the election. In a vote widely considered to be a reaction to the expenses scandal, the share of the votes was down for all the major parties; Labour was down one percent, the Conservative share was down five percent. The beneficiary of the public backlash was generally seen to be the minor parties, including the Green Party and UKIP. These results were Labour's worst since World War II. Gordon Brown was quoted in the press as having said that the results were "a painful defeat for Labour", and that "too many good people doing so much good for their communities and their constituencies have lost through no fault of their own."

General election 2010

In April 2010, Brown asked the Queen to dissolve Parliament and call new elections, which included the first televised leadership debates in British History. The result of the election was a hung parliament.

Brown was re-elected to serve as MP for Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath constituency on 6 May 2010 with 29,559 votes representing 64.5% of votes.


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.

Return to the backbenches

On 13 May 2010, in his first public appearance since leaving 10 Downing Street, two days after resigning as Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour Party, Brown confirmed he intended to stay on in Parliament, serving as a Labour Backbencher, in order to serve the people of his Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath constituency.

Depictions in popular culture

In keeping with its tradition of having a comic strip for every Prime Minister Private Eye features a comic strip, The Broonites (a parody of The Broons), parodying Brown's government. Private Eye also has a column titled Prime Ministerial Decree, a parody of statements that would be issued by Communist governments in the former Eastern Bloc.

Brown was depicted in Season 13 of South Park when world leaders plot to steal money from aliens in order to deal with the global recession, in the episode " Pinewood Derby". He also makes an appearance in the first issue of Marvel Comics' Captain Britain and MI: 13, overseeing Britain's response to the Skrull invasion of Earth.

Personal life and family

Sarah Brown attending one of her husband's speeches

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 also 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."


The son of a Church of Scotland minister, Brown has talked about what he called his " moral compass" and to his parents being his "inspiration". He is seemingly keen to keep his religion a private matter. According to the Guardian, he is a member of the Church of Scotland.

In April 2009, Brown gave what was the first ever speech by a serving Prime Minister at St Paul's Cathedral in London. He referred to a 'single powerful modern sense demanding responsibility from all and fairness to all'. He also talked about the Christian doctrine of 'do to others what you would have them do unto you', which he compared to similar principles in Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism. He went on, 'They each and all reflect a sense that we share the pain of others, and a sense that we believe in something bigger than ourselves—that we cannot be truly content while others face despair, cannot be completely at ease while others live in fear, cannot be satisfied while others are in sorrow", and continued, "We all feel, regardless of the source of our philosophy, the same deep moral sense that each of us is our brother and sisters' keeper... We cannot and will not pass by on the other side when people are suffering and when we have it within our power to help.'


Brown first thought of himself as being 'Labour' and his sense of social injustice was roused when he accompanied his father on visits around Kirkcaldy seeing the pain of unemployment and the misery of poverty and squalor as the mining and textile industries collapsed. Growing up he discovered Tawney, Tressell, Cole and other socialist texts which inspired him. He also found inspiration in Blake in poetry, Potter in drama, Lawrence in literature and the socialist leader James Maxton in Scottish history. These, he argues, fuelled his passion and activism, reinforcing his own political experience. For Brown the ethical basis of British socialism has several themes: the view that individuals are not primarily self-centered but are co-operative, that people are more likely to thrive in communities in which they play a full role and that people have talents and potential that the free market will not allow them to fully realise. In addition, one of the most enduring of Brown's themes is the commitment to equality.

Titles, honours, and awards

Until 1982 Gordon Brown was formally known as "Mr James Gordon Brown". Upon completing his PhD he was called "Dr James Gordon Brown". In 1983 he was elected to parliament as MP for Dunfermline East and was styled "Dr James Gordon Brown MP". In June 1996 he was appointed as a member of the Privy Council, and was sworn in at a meeting of the Council on 23 July 1996. Since becoming a Privy Councillor he has been known formally as The Rt Hon. Dr James Gordon Brown MP. In common with other members he will retain the "Rt Hon." prefix for life. As a former Prime Minister, Brown may be appointed to the Order of the Garter after leaving public life. However, because of his Scottish ancestry, it has also been considered that he may more appropriately be appointed to the Order of the Thistle, as was Sir Alec Douglas-Home, Prime Minister from 1963-4.

In March 2009 Brown was named World Statesman of the Year by the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, an American organisation dedicated to promoting peace, human rights and understanding between religious faiths. The award was presented by Rabbi Arthur Schneier who praised Brown's "compassionate leadership in dealing with the challenging issues facing humanity, his commitment to freedom, human dignity and the environment, and for the major role he has played in helping to stabilize the world's financial system."


  • Brown, Gordon (2007). Britain's Everyday Heroes. Mainstream Publishing. ISBN  978-1-8459-6307-1.
  • Brown, Gordon (2007). Courage: Eight Portraits. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN  978-0-7475-6532-1.
  • Brown, Gordon (2006). Wilf Stevenson. ed. Speeches 1997–2006. Bloomsbury. ISBN  978-0-7475-8837-5.
  • Brown, Gordon (ed.); Wright, Tony (ed.) (1995). Values, Visions and Voices: An Anthology of Socialism. Mainstream Publishing. ISBN  978-1-85158-731-5.
  • Brown, Gordon (1989). Where There's Greed: Margaret Thatcher and the Betrayal of Britain's Future. Mainstream Publishing. ISBN  978-1-85158-228-0.
  • Brown, Gordon (ed.); Cook, Robin (ed.) (1987). Scotland: The Real Divide. Mainstream Publishing. ISBN  978-0-906391-18-1.
  • Brown, Gordon (1986). Maxton: A Biography. Mainstream Publishing. ISBN  978-1-85158-042-2.
  • Brown, Gordon; Harvie, Christopher (1979). A Voter's Guide to the Scottish Assembly. David Watt & Sons. Retrieved 15 July 2009.
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