Back in the mid-1990s, when he was new labour’s brooding, intellectual heavyweight, I was a lone parent struggling to get by. He said he was not interested in stigmatizing the poor but in finding solutions for their predicament. I was tired of hearing government ministers lambaste the likes of me as irresponsible scroungers. I wanted Gordon Brown in charge.
He went on to become one of the longest-serving Chancellors of the Exchequer that Britain has ever seen. While our economy grew strongly, he could have stood back and done nothing; on the contrary, he brought in and continually drove up the minimum wage, and 600,000 children and a million pensioners were raised out of poverty. Brown believed the wealthy would always be able to look after themselves; it was people at the other end of the economic scale that government ought to be helping.
When capitalism shuddered on its foundations last year, Brownite words like responsibility and morality started issuing from the unlikeliest politicians. Global financial regulation, something Brown had advocated long before last September, shot to the top of the political agenda. Now Prime Minister, Brown took a lead among European leaders in setting a course for economic recovery. He hosted the most important meeting of the world’s major economies in years. In doing so, the British press said, he had become “Chancellor to the world.”
The son of a Presbyterian minister, with a formidable intellect and a work ethic to shame a nest of ants, the 58-year-old Brown is frequently dubbed “dour.” I know him as affable, funny and gregarious, a great listener, a kind and loyal friend. These are strange and turbulent times, but issues of fairness, equality and protection of the poor have never been more important. I still want Gordon Brown in charge.
Previous writing: « Foreword: Harry, a History
Next writing: Foreword: Dear Me: A Letter to My Sixteen-Year-Old Self »