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Gordon Brown


Gordon Brown (1951- ) is the new British prime minister. He succeeds Tony Blair, who stepped down on June 27th 2007 after ten years in power. Brown has also taken his place as head of the Labour Party.

Brown and Blair are both from the New Labour wing of the party, but Brown is more of a Labour true believer. He sees government as a means to create a fairer society by taking from the rich and giving to the poor. It is a moral duty. So where Blair might be persuaded to turn hospitals over to private business, Brown would never think of it.

In foreign affairs, Brown, unlike Blair, never seemed to be a big believer in the European Union or the war in Iraq. Brown kept Britain from changing its money from pounds to euros by coming up with his five tests.

Brown is hard-working and morally driven and seems to have a more powerful mind than Blair, but he lacks Blair’s charm, which is important in leading a democracy. Brown is something of a cold fish. Some say it is because he is Scottish.

Brown will have to call a general election by 2010.

Brown and Blair are old friends but they both wanted to be prime minister.

Back in 1992 after Labour had lost the last four general elections, they set about to bring Labour back to power. Thatcher had moved Britain to the right. In order to win Labour had to become business-friendly. It had to get rid of its image as the party that will raise your taxes. With this thinking in mind Blair, Brown and others founded the New Labour wing of the party.

It worked: in 1997 Labour won and has been in power ever since. But it was Blair who became prime minister, not Brown. Why?

In the early 1990s Brown at first had more supporters than Blair. But by the time John Smith, the Labour leader, died in 1994 Blair had gained more support. If Brown stood against Blair in the leadership race, New Labour support would be split and an Old Labour figure would become leader.

To avoid such ugliness Blair and Brown had dinner at a Mexican place in London called Granita. It seems they cut a deal something like this: Brown does not oppose Blair for leadership, but in return Blair makes Brown Chancellor of the Exchequer and gives him a free hand in how the government will raise and spend taxes and set interest rates. Which he did.

Some say that Blair also agreed to step down after eight years. Which he did not.

One of the first and best things Brown did as Chancellor was to let the Bank of England, not the government, set interest rates.

At first Brown was tight with the government’s money, but became much looser before the elections in 2001 and afterwards. Nevertheless Britain did well.

As Chancellor, Brown never had to make quick decisions. As prime minister those days are gone.

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