|Birth Day:||February 20, 1951|
|Birth Place:||Giffnock, Scotland|
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He lost vision in his left eye because of a rugby injury before attending the University of Edinburgh to study history.
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 the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and his right eye was saved by a young eye surgeon, Hector Chawla. Brown graduated from Edinburgh with a First-Class Honours MA degree in history in 1972, and stayed on to obtain his PhD in history (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. He also worked as a tutor for the Open University. In the 1979 general election, Brown 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.
Brown was elected to Parliament as a Labour MP at his second attempt, for Dunfermline East in the 1983 general election. His first Westminster office mate was a newly elected MP from the Sedgefield constituency, Tony Blair. Brown became an 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 doctoral 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.
Labour leader John Smith died suddenly in May 1994. Brown did not contest the leadership after Tony Blair became the favourite, deciding to make way for Blair to avoid splitting the pro-modernising vote in the leadership ballot.
In the 1997 general election, Labour defeated the Conservatives by a landslide to end their 18-year exile from government, and when Tony Blair, the new Prime Minister, announced his ministerial team on 2 May 1997, he appointed Brown as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Brown would remain in this role for 10 years and two months, making 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.
In the 1997 election and subsequently, Brown pledged not to 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 inline 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. To backbench cheers, Brown had described the measure in his last Budget thus: "Having put in place more focused ways of incentivising work and directly supporting children and pensioners at a cost of £3bn a year, I can now return income tax to just two rates by removing the 10p band on non-savings income".
According to the OECD UK taxation increased from a 39.3% share of gross domestic product in 1997 to 42.4% in 2006, going to a higher level than that of 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.
In October 1997, Brown announced that the Treasury would set five economic tests to determine whether the economic case had been made for the United Kingdom to adopt the European single currency. The Treasury indicated that the tests had not been passed in June 2003.
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 the Brown Bottom or Brown's 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. The UK eventually sold about 395 tons of gold over 17 auctions from July 1999 to March 2002, at an average price of about US$275 per ounce, raising approximately US$3.5 billion. By 2011, that quantity of gold would be worth over $19 billion, leading to Brown's decision to sell the gold being widely criticised.
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, and in his last budget as Chancellor, Brown gave an extra £3 billion in pension allowances, an increase in the child tax credit, and an increase in the working tax credit. These increases were followed by another £1 billion of support for increases in the child tax credit.
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."
Brown's early girlfriends included 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. A daughter, Jennifer Jane, was born prematurely on 28 December 2001; she died on 7 January 2002, one day after suffering a brain haemorrhage. The couple have two sons, John Macaulay (born 17 October 2003) and (James) Fraser (born on 18 July 2006). In November 2006, Fraser was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. The Sun had learned of the situation in 2006 and published the story. In 2011 Brown stated he had wanted the details of his son's condition kept private and that the publication had left him "in tears". The Sun said they approached Brown and that discussion occurred with his colleagues who provided quotes to use in the article.
As Chancellor, Brown argued against renationalising the railways, saying at the Labour conference in 2004 that it would cost £22 billion.
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 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.
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. Following a reorganisation of Westminster constituencies in Scotland in 2005, Brown became MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath at the general election.
During his time as Chancellor, Brown reportedly believed that it was appropriate to remove most, but not all, of the unpayable Third World debt. On 20 April 2006, in a speech to the United Nations Ambassadors, Brown outlined a "Green" view of global development.
Brown became the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on 27 June 2007. He was succeeded by Alistair Darling as Chancellor the following day. 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 was Member of Parliament for the constituency of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath until he stepped down in 2015. He was the sixth post-war Prime Minister, of a total of 13, 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. Not all British prime ministers have been university graduates, but, of those that were, Brown was one of only five that had not attended either Oxford or Cambridge. He 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.
He 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 percent pay rise in 2006. Brown also stated in the manifesto that the NHS was his top priority.
On 5 June 2007, just three weeks before he was due to take the post of Prime Minister, Brown made a speech promising "British Jobs for British workers". Brown reiterated that promise at the Labour Party's annual conference in September, which caused controversy as he coupled this with a commitment to crack down on migrant workers. The Conservative Party, led by David Cameron, promptly pointed out that such a commitment was illegal under EU law.
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 would hold an inquiry into the war.
Brown went 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 quote, "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 ensuring adequate safeguards, rewards and compensation for military personnel who risk their lives in obedience to orders derived from the policy of the elected government.
In a speech in July 2007, Brown 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 special relationship 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 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 the 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.
His political opponents accused him of being indecisive, which Brown denied. In July 2008 Brown supported a new bill extending the 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 did not attend the opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics on 8 August 2008 in Beijing; instead, he attended the closing ceremony 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, but rather was made several weeks in advance and not intended as a stand on principle.
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 then Home Secretary Alan Johnson. Following his resignation, Professor Nutt said Brown had "made up his mind" to reclassify cannabis despite evidence to the contrary. 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 Nutt's 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".
In the local elections on 1 May 2008, Labour suffered its worst results in 40 years, finishing in third place with a projected 24% share of the national vote. Subsequently, the party saw 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 Labour struggle to appoint a candidate, eventually settling for Margaret Curran, a sitting MSP in the Scottish Parliament. The SNP, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats all derided Labour 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%.
On 4 June 2009 James Purnell resigned from the Cabinet, and called for Brown's resignation as Prime Minister.
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 stabilise the world's financial system".
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".
In April 2010, Brown asked the Queen to dissolve Parliament. The general election campaign included the first televised leadership debates in Britain. The result of the election on 6 May was a hung parliament. Brown was re-elected as MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath with 29,559 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 to form a coalition government 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.
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, to serve the people of his Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath constituency.
In April 2011, media reports linked Brown with the role as the next managing director of the International Monetary Fund following the scheduled retirement of Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Brown's successor and Leader of the Opposition, Ed Miliband, supported Brown for the role while the Prime Minister, David Cameron, voiced opposition to this. Following the arrest of Strauss-Kahn for alleged sexual assault in May 2011, and his subsequent resignation, these reports re-surfaced. Support for Brown among economists was mixed but British Government backing for his candidature was not forthcoming and instead supported Christine Lagarde – the eventual successful candidate – for the post.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who had worked with the government during Brown's premiership to publish government data on the internet in the data.gov.uk project, subsequently invited Brown to become a board director of the World Wide Web Foundation to "advise the Web Foundation on ways to involve disadvantaged communities and global leaders in the development of sustainable programs that connect humanity and affect positive change". On 22 April 2011 it was announced that Brown would be taking on an unpaid advisory role at the World Economic Forum. Brown was also appointed as the inaugural 'Distinguished Leader in Residence' by New York University and took part in discussions and lectures relating to the global financial crisis and globalisation.
In July 2012 Brown was named by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as a United Nations Special Envoy on Global Education. He chaired the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity. The position is unpaid.
On 1 December 2014, Brown announced that he would not be seeking re-election to parliament. He stood down at the general election in May 2015.
In December 2015, Brown took his first large-scale role in the private sector since standing down as prime minister in 2010, becoming an advisor to PIMCO. Any money earned from the role is to go to the Gordon and Sarah Brown Foundation to support charitable work.
In 2018, he said: "It makes me angry. I'm seeing poverty I didn’t think I would ever see again in my lifetime. Slum housing was a feature of my childhood in the 1950s and 1960s, and I thought we had finally got over the worst of child poverty. Tax credits were the key to that." He also said, "You can't solve child poverty with the existing system. Universal credit is completely underfunded and every time they move people on to it you see more poverty. Minimum wage jobs don't pay enough to keep a family with two or three children out of poverty." Brown said further, "The government is trying to analyse this as people who are too lazy to get into work. But the problem is that people can't earn enough to stay out of poverty."
Currently, Gordon Brown is 71 years, 11 months and 14 days old. Gordon Brown will celebrate 72nd birthday on a Monday 20th of February 2023.
Find out about Gordon Brown birthday activities in timeline view here.