Gordon Brown

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This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's focus on the fallout of nuclear "spin."

James Gordon Brown is the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. He took office on 27 June 2007, three days after becoming leader of the Labour Party. Prior to this he served as the Chancellor of the Exchequer under Tony Blair from 1997 to 2007.

A 20 year journey from the Red Paper to the Private Finance Initiative

In 1975, Brown edited The Red Paper on Scotland, a strongly pro-socialist document. In his introduction, titled "The socialist challenge",[6] Brown asserted that:

"Scottish socialists cannot support a strategy for independence which postpones the meeting of urgent social and economic needs until the day after independence... But neither can they give unconditional support to maintaining the integrity of the United Kingdom - and all that that entails - without any guarantee of radical social change."[7]

But by 1994, Brown had moved sufficiently to the right for him to author "Financing Infrastructure Investment" with Labour party colleagues Robin Cook and John Prescott. The document was described by The Guardian as "...a call for massive injections of private-sector cash into every corner of the public sector - including hospitals and schools." The paper went on to portray it as an astute political move to claim possession of the Conservative's flagship PFI policy: "John Smith's economic policy initiative will embarrass John Major because it hijacks, and improves on, a Tory policy that has been ensnared in Treasury red tape for more than four years."[8]

And here's to you, Mr Robinson

Brown has had a long and extremely close association with the controversial Labour MP and multi-millionaire, Geoffrey Robinson. When Robinson resigned his shadow cabinet post in 1986 to start TransTec, Brown took his place.[9]

Years later, according to Tom Bower who has written a highly critical biography of Brown, Robinson "...financed Brown's last years in opposition."[10] Another Telegraph article puts a figure on that support: "[Robinson] provided more than £200,000 to pay for the specialist advice Mr Brown needed for formulating his tax policies."[11]

The hotel group: drinking and driving economic policy

Numerous media reports over the years have claimed that, both before and after the 1997 election, much of Brown's policy making was conducted at Robinson's suite at the Grosvenor House hotel. The first media mention of the group appears in a Guardian article from 1998 about the scandal over Peter Mandelson's home loan, which described Robinson as "...a fully paid-up member of the Brownite inner circle 'hotel group'".[12] And The Guardian reported in 1999 that,

"There were tensions in the aftermath of the election, with allegations that crucial decisions were being made by an inner circle of Brown confidants in Geoffrey Robinson's suite at the Grosvenor House hotel in London. Treasury officials, incuding the then permanent secretary, Sir Terence Burns, were allegedly frozen out of policymaking decisions."[13]

Bower puts it more colourfully: "Frequently, the shadow chancellor headed for the suite to enjoy pizza and beer with Robinson, Ed Balls, an intelligent young economist, and Charlie Whelan... The 'hotel group' arrived with Brown at the Treasury on May 2 1997."[10] (Balls father-in-law Tony Cooper is a long-standing nuclear lobbyist.[14][15]

In the 1999 Guardian article, Lord Turnbull, at that time the permanent secretary to the treasury, offered a less than categorical denial of the group's existence: "I have never seen evidence of a so-called hotel group. If it ever existed, it had ceased to exist by the time I got here."[13] In March 2007, Turnbull condemned Brown for his alleged "Stalinist ruthlessness", saying of Brown's relationship with his colleagues: "He cannot allow them any serious discussion about priorities. His view is that it is just not worth it, and 'they will get what I decide'. And that is an extremely insulting kind of process."[16]

A glowing video tribute to the Daily Mail's editor

In spring 2003, Brown recorded an effusive video tribute to mark the 10th anniversary of Paul Dacre's editorship of the Daily Mail, a newspaper noted for its hostility towards Labour. In the clip, which was shown at a lavish event at the Savoy Hotel, Brown described Dacre as

"...an editor who has devised and delivered one of the great newspaper success stories of any generation... He also shows great personal warmth and kindness, as well as great journalistic skill"[17][18]

In a Guardian article the following year, an aide defended the Chancellor:

"'What are we supposed to do, ignore one of the most successful newspapers in the country?' asked one of Brown's team. 'Gordon sees it very much part of his job to make sure the Labour message is heard as far and wide as possible.'... According to media sources, Dacre has real respect for the Chancellor, seeing him as a man who has principles he sticks to, who believes in the value of hard work and has a Christian outlook similar to his own... The men meet regularly, possibly as often as every two months."[19]

Greenlighting Blair's nuclear plans

A year before he succeeded Blair, Gordon Brown had already signalled his support for Tony Blair's desire for a new generation of nuclear power stations, letting it be known that there was "...'no real difference' between him and the Prime Minister on the issue, and that he is personally convinced a new nuclear programme is the right way forward."[20] Within days of him succeeding to the Labour leadership unopposed, The Observer reported that his position on new nuclear build had not changed:

"Gordon Brown is to face down sceptics in his party and give the go-ahead for a new generation of nuclear power stations, which will be built across the country. In a move immediately condemned by environmental organisations, the Prime Minister-elect will give the green light to the plans that will show that he is backing Tony Blair's support of the nuclear industry."[21] The newspaper reported that the proposed nuclear expansion could result in up to eight new stations being built within approximately 15 years.

Brown and public relations: It's a family affair

Nuclear lobbyist younger brother

Brown's support for new nuclear build sits uncomfortably with the fact that, since September 13, 2004, his younger brother Andrew has been head of media relations at nuclear company EDF Energy.[22] Previously, he worked for the lobbying company Weber Shandwick.[23] [24]

As of April 2007, Brown was still at the company: he sat in on an interview with EDF boss Vincent de Rivaz.[25] An Independent article in May 2007 claimed that "...Brown senior keeps his younger brother at arm's length", but did not provide details of how he achieves this.[26]


Elder brother was a spin doctor too

According to the Evening Standard,

"When Gordon's older brother John was working as a public relations boss at Glasgow City Council some were surprised that the body was granted £900 million by the Chancellor to repay its debts for building council houses. English cities never received such favours at the time."[27]

Heeding a warning from Bono

The Telegraph reported in September 2006 that

"The Chancellor told a Labour conference fringe meeting that he had been warned of the hatred of the West being taught in Islamic religious schools in Nigeria by Bono, U2's lead singer. 'He had just returned from Nigeria and was telling me that if we will not provide free education, then religious extremists are going to – but only education that preaches hatred,' Mr Brown said at a meeting organised by Oxfam and Unison."[28]

Researchers and special advisers

Brown's alleged predilection for surrounding himself with fiercely loyal special advisers has been the subject of much - and often hostile - media attention. Below is as complete as possible a list of his past and present advisers.

Directly working for Gordon Brown

Name Role Minimum dates Refs
Paul McKinney political researcher 1980s [29]
Ed Richards researcher mid 1990s [30]
Charlie Whelan press secretary 1994-1999 [31]
Ed Balls Chief economic adviser 1999-? [13]
Julie Fry "[Ran] the office of Gordon Brown's team of special advisers" 1999 [13]
Beth Breeze assistant during the first Scottish Parliamentary elections 1999 [32]
Geoff Mulgan Chief adviser Dates unknown [33]
Ian Austin Spokesman 1999-Sept 2004 [13][10]
Sue Nye Special adviser At least Sept 2004-Feb 2007 [10][34]
Spencer Livermore Special adviser Feb 2007 [34]
Damian McBride Special adviser Feb 2007 [34]

Other special advisers closely associated with Brown

Name Role Dates Refs
Jonathan Ashworth Special adviser to Stephen Timms Feb 2007 [34]
Jo Dipple Special adviser to Stephen Timms Feb 2007 [34]
Gila Sacks Member, Council of Economic Advisers Feb 2007 [34]
Shriti Vadera Member, Council of Economic Advisers Feb 2007 [34]
Dan Corry Chair, Council of Economic Advisers Feb 2007 [34]
Paul Gregg Member, Council of Economic Advisers Feb 2007 [34]
Michael Jacobs Member, Council of Economic Advisers Feb 2007 [34]
Stewart Wood Member, Council of Economic Advisers Feb 2007 [34]
Gavin Kelly Member, Council of Economic Advisers Feb 2007 [34]

Contact Details

Constituency Addresses: [1]

318 High Street
Cowdenbeath
Fife
KY4 9QJ
House of Commons
Email: birdc AT parliament.uk

Sourcewatch Resources

References

  1. William S. Kalema, Commission for Africa, accessed November 26, 2007.
  2. Governors and patrons, Westminster Foundation for Democracy, accessed July 19, 2010.
  3. Patrons, SMK, accessed January 12, 2011.
  4. Burma Campaign UK About, organizational web page, accessed April 16, 2013.
  5. Global Advisory Panel, Pimco, accessed January 15, 2016.
  6. "The Socialist Project: Revisiting The Red Paper on Scotland", a one day conference on Friday 1st December 2000, Kings College, University of Aberdeen. Accessed via the Internet Archive, archived November 2002.
  7. Neal Ascherson, "Life on the ante-eurodiluvian Left", The Guardian, November 5, 2000.
  8. "Labour's private cash bombshell", The Observer, February 20, 1994. Available via Lexis-Nexis.
  9. Mary Riddell, "Tortoise who wants in from the cold", The Guardian, March 28, 1996. Available via Lexis-Nexis.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Tom Bower, "'Private' Brown under constant scrutiny", Daily Telegraph, May 12, 2007.
  11. George Jones, "New Labour cabal behind the decision", Daily Telegraph, April 3, 2007.
  12. Seumas Milne, "Mandelson: undone by a story that could not be spun", The Guardian, December 24, 1998.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 Mark Atkinson and Larry Elliott, "Brown's mechanics behind the machinations of government", The Guardian, November 9, 1999.
  14. Biography on Yvette Cooper's website, undated, accessed February 2006.
  15. Tony Cooper's biography on Nuclear Decommissioning Authority website, undated, accessed February 2006.
  16. Nick Timmins, "Highlights of Turnbull interview", Financial Times, March 20, 2007.
  17. 'The Minx', "Media diary", Daily Telegraph, March 6, 2003.
  18. Francis Wheen and Peter Oborne, "Is the Daily Mail bad for your health?", April 25, 2003.
  19. Kamal Ahmed, "How peace broke out at last", The Guardian, July 4, 2004.
  20. Andrew Grice, "Brown endorses Blair's plans for more nuclear power stations", The Independent May 17, 2006.
  21. Nicholas Watt, Oliver Morgan and Robin McKie, "Brown's vision for a nuclear Britain", The Observer, May 20, 2007.
  22. "Brown takes top EDF UK media job", PR Week, September 17, 2004.
  23. No named author, Private Eye issue 1151, p8, February 2006.
  24. EDF Energy press release 'Andrew Brown to head media team at EDF Energy', September 13, 2004.
  25. Tom McGhie, "City interview: Vincent de Rivaz", thisismoney.co.uk, April 30, 2007.
  26. Jeremy Warner, "Jeremy Warner's Outlook: Markets may be underestimating potential for more interest rate rises this summer", The Independent, May 11, 2007.
  27. Londoner's Diary, "Power to Brown's people", Evening Standard, July 11, 2006. Via Highbeam Research.
  28. Neil Tweedie, "Gordon Brown: 'Teach to avoid hatred'", Daily Telegraph, September 25, 2006.
  29. "Oxfam hires McKinney to head comms", PR Week, January 14, 2005. Accessed via zoominfo.
  30. Derek Draper, "My generation", New Statesman, November 1, 2004.
  31. "Charlie Whelan: Profile", The Guardian commentisfree. Undated, accessed May 13, 2007.
  32. "Beth Breeze (formerly Egan)", biographical note, Caritas Social Action website. Undated, accessed May 15, 2007.
  33. Profile of Geoff Mulgan, Guardian commentisfree. Undated, accessed May 15, 2007.
  34. 34.00 34.01 34.02 34.03 34.04 34.05 34.06 34.07 34.08 34.09 34.10 34.11 Christopher Hope, "Brown's kitchen cabinet costs £1m a year", Daily Telegraph, February 25, 2007.

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