Brown, Gordon

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Brown, Gordon

Gordon Brown (James Gordon Brown), 1951–, British politician. From 1975 to 1980 he taught at Edinburgh Univ. and Glasgow College of Technology; he then joined Scottish Television (1980–83) as a journalist. He ran unsuccessfully for Parliament in 1979 but won a seat in 1983. As a Labour party member (1983–97) under the Conservative government, he held major opposition posts on trade and economic affairs and, with Tony Blair, sought to modernize Labour and broaden its political appeal. A potential challenger for leadership of the party in 1994, he stepped aside in favor of Blair, and in 1997, after Labour's electoral victory, Brown became chancellor of the exchequer under Blair; his appointment to the post was widely believed to have been the result of a 1994 deal between Blair and Brown. One of Brown's early actions was to give the Bank of England the power to set short-term interest rates, a power previous Labour and Conservative governments had reserved for themselves. Brown also took a tough stance on government spending, earning a reputation as the "iron chancellor," and established economic criteria for Britain's adopting the euro that helped undermine the prime minister's push to do so. When Blair stepped down as Labour party leader and prime minister in June, 2007, Brown, who had become the longest serving chancellor in modern times, succeeded him in both offices. During the 2008 global financial crisis, Brown's government was the first to attempt to stabilize financial institutions by recapitalizing them with government money. The subsequent recession, however, and a parliamentary expenses scandal contributed to Labour's loss in the 2010 elections, and Brown resigned a prime minister and party leader. David Cameron, leading a Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition, succeeded him as prime minister. In 2014 Brown's campaign for continued union and against Scottish independence was generally regarded as more influential than that of members of the British government. He retired from Parliament the following year. Brown has written several books, including a biography (1986) of the socialist parliamentarian James Maxton, Where There Is Greed: Margaret Thatcher and the Betrayal of Britain's Future (1989), and Fair is Efficient: A Socialist Agenda for Fairness (1994).

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