February 20, 1951
University of Edinburgh, Glasgow Caledonian University
PLACE OF BIRTH
James Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown succeeded Tony Blair as prime minister of the United Kingdom in 2007, and served against the backdrop of a worldwide financial crisis.
SynopsisBorn in Scotland on February 20, 1951, Gordon Brown succeeded Tony Blair as prime minister of the United Kingdom in 2007, after having served under Blair as chancellor of the Exchequer. He stepped down in 2010 amidst waning popularity of the Labour party, which was due in part to the worldwide financial crisis.
Early LifeGordon Brown was born in Glasgow, Scotland on February 20, 1951, to mother Elizabeth Brown and father John Brown, who served as a minister for the Church of Scotland. Brown attended the Kirkcaldy West Primary School and, when he was just 16 years old, won a scholarship to the University of Edinburgh. There, he studied politics and served as chairman of the school's Labour Club. He graduated with honors from Edinburgh in 1972.
Early CareerNot long after his graduation from Edinburgh, Brown began a short stint as a lecturer there, in 1975, moving on to a teaching position at the Glasgow College of Technology in 1976. In 1980, he switched careers entirely, becoming a current affairs journalist for Scottish TV. Around the same time, he decided to begin graduate studies, re-enrolling at the University of Edinburgh. He obtained a doctorate degree in history from the school in 1982, after writing a dissertation titled, "The Labour Party and Political Change in Scotland, 1918–29."
Early Political CareerFollowing an unsuccessful run in 1979 in the House of Commons election, vying for the Edinburgh representative seat, Brown won a seat as a Member of Parliament for Dunfermline East in 1983. At that time, he began a friendship with Tony Blair, also a new MP, representing the Sedgefield constituency. Not long after the election, Brown and Blair led the campaign to modernize the political philosophy of the Labour Party, amending the party's goal of state socialism to a more business-focused strategy.
In 1992, Brown was designated as shadow chancellor of the Exchequer, and then became the parliament's Labour Party leader in 1994, following the sudden death of his predecessor, MP John Smith.
When the Labour Party beat the Conservative Party in the 1997 general election, Blair became U.K. prime minister and Brown, subsequently, became chancellor of the Exchequer. In his new position, Brown controlled the U.K.'s domestic economy-related policies. Among his first actions were designating the power to set interest rates to the Bank of England, and creating stipulations for the U.K.'s potential adoption of the euro—as of May 2012, the U.K. had still not adopted the euro, nor announced new plans to do so in the future, and the sterling pound remained the nation's unit of currency.
During his first two years in office, Brown in large part retained stringent public-spending policies that had been set by the former Conservative administration, which frustrated many of his supporters in the Labour Party. However, in 1998, Brown created plans to designate additional finances to the nation's health, education and overseas aid budgets. His new spending plan was effected in 1999. Not long after, Brown helped to develop new mechanisms for stabilizing the world's financial markets.
When the United States declared it would invade Iraq, in 2003, the military decision was initially supported by Britain's Labour Party. However, public support of the war soon dwindled in both the U.K. and U.S., as well as in nations worldwide, creating negative publicity for the Labour Party and, subsequently, Prime Minister Tony Blair. Blair's popularity was declining for other reasons, as well, including an increasingly tense relationship between Blair and Brown that was perhaps best highlighted by a document that surfaced in 2007, disclosing to the public Blair's contemplative plans to possibly remove Brown as chancellor of the Exchequer.
In September of 2006, Blair announced his plans to resign as prime minister.
Serving as Prime MinisterIn June of 2007, Brown was appointed as prime minister and Labour Party Leader of the United Kingdom, succeeding Tony Blair, who had supported Brown in the general election. Brown, however, faced no opposition while campaigning. Among his first actions were pledging to work to fight poverty, reform the National Health Service and continue the public-sector reforms that had been implemented by Blair's administration.
When the financial crisis erupted worldwide in 2008 (continuing for several months afterward), the United Kingdom was no exception to the effects of the dwindling economy; the country was battling severe unemployment, foreclosures and a national budget deficit. Despite making strides in 2009 to stimulate the economy, Brown saw Britain's budget deficit increase.
Adding salt to the wound, later in 2009, media outlets began reporting on expense account abuse by MPs, including some of Brown's cabinet members. The public scandal caused some members to resign, as well as a decrease in Brown's public ratings.
In the 2010 general election, the Labour Party lost its majority in the House of Commons. Soon after, Brown publicly announced his resignation as Labour Party Leader, and in the following days, he announced that he would step down as prime minister.
Personal Life and Recent WorksBrown married Sarah Macaulay in 2000. They had three children: Jennifer Jane, who died in 2002 after suffering a brain hemorrhage; John Macaulay; and James Fraser.
Brown has written several published works, including Maxton: A Biography (1986), detailing the life of James Maxton, a Scottish politican of the Independent Labour Party, who died in 1946. Maxton was also the topic of Brown's graduate school thesis. He also wrote Where There Is Greed in 1989; co-wrote John Smith in 1994; and authored Beyond the Crash: Overcoming the First Crisis of Globalization in 2010.