My Life, Our Times – Gordon Brown
Back last year I made a loose pact to read more non fiction and I started this journey with autobiographies which led me to read two political autobiographies, Stepping Out by Ed Balls and Free at Last by Tony Benn, two prominant members of the Labour Party and now I’m kicking off the year as I mean to go on with yet another political biography.
Now, I wasn’t going to review this, but having now read three books, by three people of the same party covering many of the same events, I had thoughts. So… Here are those thoughts.
As former Prime Minister and our longest-serving Chancellor, Gordon Brown has been a guiding force for Britain and the world over three decades. This is his candid, poignant and deeply relevant story.
In describing his upbringing in Scotland as the son of a minister, the near loss of his eyesight as a student and the death of his daughter within days of her birth, he shares the passionately held principles that have shaped and driven him, reminding us that politics can and should be a calling to serve. Reflecting on the personal and ideological tensions within Labour and its achievements – the minimum wage, tax credits, Bank of England independence and the refinancing of the National Health Service – he describes how to meet the challenge of pursuing a radical agenda within a credible party of government.
He explains how as Chancellor he equipped Britain for a globalised economy while swimming against the neoliberal tide and shows what more must be done to halt rising inequality. In his behind-the-scenes account of the financial crisis and his leading role in saving the world economy from collapse, he addresses the question of who was to blame for the crash and why its causes and consequences still beset us.
From the invasion of Iraq to the tragedy of Afghanistan, from the coalition negotiations of 2010 to the referendums on Scottish independence and Europe, Gordon Brown draws on his unique experiences to explain Britain’s current fractured condition. And by showing us what progressive politics has achieved in recent decades, he inspires us with a vision of what it might yet achieve today.
Riveting, expert and highly personal, this historic memoir is an invaluable insight into our times.
I should preface this by saying I know that I’ve only read three political biographies and I know they’re all from the same party, I’m not one for forcing agendas, I just happen to be from a long line of Labour voters and I only get given books by people associated with them. So, you know. I would actually like to read some biographies from other political figures, so I can see the same events from a different viewpoint… Anyway, sorry in advance, this is mostly just word vomit. I have thoughts, but I’m not sure they’re exactly coherent!
Honestly, I’ve always had a lot of time for Gordon Brown and so when I saw he was releasing a book of his memoirs I was interested to read it, which is precisely why my mum gave it to me for Christmas. I’ll say to you the first thing that I said to her when she asked me how the book was, it has all the warmth and charm of the man himself. But seriously, Gordon Brown, it turns out is an incredibly passionate and interesting person and this is honestly a fascinating look at life from the inside of Downing Street, especially so because this covers events that I was alive for. I touched on this with my double review for Ed Balls and Tony Benn and I’m not going to repeat myself, but I have THOUGHTS people. Thoughts.
So first off, I am endlessly fascinated with how people are members of the same organisation but have such wildly conflicting ideas. Tony Benn was an ardent socialist, Ed Balls and Gordon Brown were not. However, they were both left of centre and Gordon Brown in particular, from reading his book, was someone who cared for equality and society, they all just had different ideas of how to achieve it and speaking of achievements, I wish old Gordy had shouted about his a bit more while he was in power, he saved literally the entire world from global recession, be bought in policies that made not just the UK one of the most educated group of people, but people all over the world, he helped hospitals, he helped old people… Yes he wasn’t always right, yes he didn’t always come across that well, but reading his book and seeing all the things he did and how modestly he talked about them made me want to shake him from the lapels and declare “Gordon! You are a bloody genius! Own it!”
Also, political affiliations aside, it was really interesting to read about how government is structured, what happens where and what its like to live behind the door of Number 10, it was also interesting to see how the press portrayed things and of course, reading Gordon spill the tea on Iraq and his predecessor.