Former PM Gordon Brown visits Newcastle

Gordon Brown at the Annual Meeting 2008 of the World Economic Forum Image: Andy Mettler

Last Friday, the 17th of November, the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown visited Newcastle University to promote his new book My Life, Our Times. With all proceeds from the book going to charity.

Gordon Brown was Chancellor of The Exchequer from 1997 to 2007 and Prime Minister from 2007 until 2010 for the Labour Party. Under what commonly became known as ‘New Labour’ where the party moved away from traditional Labour statism and towards a more liberalisation economic philosophy.

“The central theme of his address was the issue of social justice, and his book intertwines his own personal life and struggles whilst mixing this with issues in global politics”

As Chancellor, Brown was one of the longest serving and arguably one of the best chancellors in UK history, instituting a minimum wage and tax credits.

After becoming Prime Minister in 2006 Brown saved the UK economy, alongside the new Chancellor Alastair Darling, during the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression by bailing out failed UK banks, such as Newcastle’s Northern Rock – which then pushed other international leaders to do the same such as Barack Obama’s bailing out of Lehman Brothers and JP Morgan in the United States.

This was before losing out to the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats at the 2010 election, leading to the coalition government which lasted until 2015.

During his speech at the Herschel Auditorium last Friday, Gordon Brown, joined by local Labour MP for Newcastle East and lifelong friend, Nick Brown, began his speech with anecdotes from his early years before moving into his time in opposition and then his time in government under New Labour beginning in 1997.

The central theme of his address was the issue of social justice, and his book intertwines his own personal life and struggles whilst mixing this with issues in global politics and where we find ourselves in the world today, a world partly reeling from the global financial crash of 2007 – 2008 and its discontents, which he can partly gain credit for stopping its worst effects by intervening and bailing out the banks.

Another central tenet of Gordon Brown’s speech was how to achieve social justice during an era of globalisation.

One question from an attendee, was how we can tax corporations without leading to investment leaving the UK, with Brown replying that co-operation was key in coordinating efforts to clamp down tax avoidance. In fact, along with social justice, co-operation was key to Brown’s speech.

With regards to Brexit when asked about Brexit and referendums Brown criticised not referendums per se but criticised the way that they’re fought, saying “[Brexit] was all negative. It was all about are you going to be more afraid of losing your job or of immigration and people coming into the country?” and insisting that positivity is essential in any political campaign whether during a general election or a referendum, and that our message should have been that “we are an open outward looking country who believes in co-operation.”

When an audience member asked Brown “what was the hardest part of being Prime Minister?”, Brown quickly replied “being Prime Minister.” Afterwards university and non-university students alike met him for a book signing and to take photos.

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