Gordon Brown: A Life in Politics

Gordon Brown’s A Life in Politics lecture at the LSE was as compelling as it was insightful, as the charismatic ex-Prime Minister took attendees on a journey of his political career. His talk opened with a humorous anecdote unveiling his first experience of the LSE was having £50 stolen from his jacket in the university library, following an overview of issues he encountered during his time in politics, whilst also offering his view of current affairs.

His talk began with a focus on leadership and what it means to be an effective leader. He solidifies this by saying the most important factor of leadership is a “clear and hopeful vision of the future, compelling enough to persuade people.” He then went on to apply this to the South-African anti-apartheid revolutionary, Nelson Mandela; his equal treatment of everyone, including his greeting to the Queen during one phone call as “hello, Elizabeth”, gave him a cohesive vision that enabled his political career to be so successful. When applying Brown’s own theory of leadership to his role as Labour Prime Minister, it is questionable that his governance serves as highly as his sense of humour. It is hard to ignore the illegitimacy of Brown’s role, as he inherited his position from Blair in 2007 and opinion polls for the Labour Party plummeted during the 2008 recession. Moreover, it is hard to decipher what Brown’s “clear and hopeful vision of the future” actually was. Although the ex- Prime Minister supported a range of legislation, he is not known for any iconic implementation or movement during his leadership; in conjunction with this, one can argue that Brown’s time as chancellor was more successful for him than his time as Prime Minister. However, his dealing with the recession meant that Brown was so consumed with domestic economic policy that it was difficult to produce revolutionary legislation. Leadership also goes hand in hand with public image; Brown was never known for his charisma, despite this shining through in his talk at the LSE. Opinion polls of Brown were generally negative throughout his governance, not to mention his faux pas with Gillian Duffy calling her ‘bigoted’. Following such a popular figurehead as Tony Blair was always going to be a challenge, but it is clear that Brown’s leadership skills do not adhere to his definition.

During his time as chancellor, Brown played a key role in some of Labour’s most praised pieces of legislation, including the minimum wage. The 2008 financial crisis also flaunted Brown’s ability to deal with economic decline, organising the G20 meetings in 2009, as well as naming tax havens and a 5% target for ‘go for growth’ inflation. However, Brown admits he “failed to convince the people to run a deficit”, provoking the highest rate of unemployment in 2011 after his leadership. Through this, we can see Brown’s prime focus in his career was economic policy, largely as a consequence of the recession.

The socialist ideological tenet of cooperation proved dear to Brown’s heart as he applied it to many political concepts. As well as his stress of popular sovereignty, Brown proposes the need for “global solutions to global problems” as “national prosperity relies on international cooperation.” In so many words, the ex-Prime Minister associates the failure to tackle issues like pollution and inequality as a lack of cohesion on an international scale. The compelling example of Trump’s economic policies was utilised by Brown to suggest that the slashing of imports in order to obtain a more nationalist approach to US politics, consequentially diminishes exports due to a lack of international cooperation. This is evidence that cooperation is the prime resource to economic success on a national scale, proving why Brexit is ultimately more pain than its worth. The critique of neo-liberalism also shined through as Brown claimed “autonomy is impossible in an interdependent world”, and that Labour is “swimming against the tide of a neo-liberal government”, whom wrongly puts inflation before unemployment.

The finality of Browns visit to the LSE ceased with an anecdote about the novelist Anthony Burgess. After meeting the author at Edinburgh festival, Burgess told Brown of a 21st chapter in his phenomenal book ‘A Clockwork Orange’ whereby the protagonist, Alex DeLarge, repents for his sins and embellishes the author’s Catholic background. However, this chapter was erased by publishers and Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation. Brown brings this narrative back with a claim that “we need a chapter 21”. The government need to iron out all issues like Brexit, Priti Patel’s secret Israeli meetings and the surge of sexual misconduct allegations circling the Commons, in order to redeem themselves.

Angel Witney

@angelxwitney

Corbyn’s Impressionable Kids?

‘@JeremyCorbyn it’s clear you alluded to student refunds to get votes from young impressionable people. You are a cheat and should resign’ business tycoon Alan Sugar tweeted at 20:50 from the Mediterranean coast of Italy, perhaps from a yacht, or more likely a multi-million pound mansion.

Thanks for the opportunity, Sir Alan’ replied Jeremy as he clambered into a black cab. ‘Thank you Karen, thank you Nick.’

Fortunately for the left, this scenario did not happen. The tweet, however, did. And the tweet pissed me off in a variety of ways:

Firstly, Alan’s proclamation that the entirety of the young electorate are ‘impressionable’ numbskulls who think that electing our new leader is akin to selecting our Love Island winner is, in my opinion false – albeit a popular image of youth adopted by many whose faces are so engulfed by wrinkles they cannot see the world clearly. This overused stereotype of this generation is, from what I have seen, wildly inaccurate. Yes, of course their were people who voted, who were not entirely informed, but that can be said for the entire electorate, not solely young left-wingers, as the right-wing media try to assert. There is evidently vast numbers of well informed young voters – just because they subscribe to a left-wing political persuasion does not make them immediately naïve and impressionable. Take a 5 minute scrawl through my twitter feed and you will see a large quantity of both Labour and Tory voters who are aged 18-24 and extremely well educated on issues, perhaps more so than other generations. To take myself as an example, I grew up with conservative parents, with the Telegraph the only available newspaper in my house, with papers like the Sun, Telegraph and Daily Mail being the only newspapers on the Snapchat featured section and the mainstream media lacking in coverage of Corbyn’s successes. If I was so impressionable, then surely I should be a conservative voter. Furthermore, as an 18 year old who is politically aware, I am clearly not alone. Vast numbers of young people who I came into contact with throughout the general election period, were able to name policies for both sides and were clearly educated on the political climate, albeit limited in certain case. In my opinion, young voters are no more ‘impressionable’ than people who have been voting for decades. So this image of the young as impressionable is, in my opinion, invalid.

corbz

Politicians lie and u-turn. That is a fact of politics that only a fool would see as a shock. Of course, it should not be this way, but it is. In some instances a change of policy is not always wrong, in the case of student debts, I’d rather an acceptance that it is not going to happen, rather than Labour to simply lie to us and tell us it definitely will, whilst knowing it won’t. Also, if Theresa May had to resign every time she lied to the electorate/u-turned, the entire Tory front bench would have had a bash at being leader by now. Tory U-Turns have been near constant during May’s tumultuous reign: the General Election itself; National Insurance Increase; Foreign Worker Quotas; Social Care, European Convention of Human Rights; Energy Price Caps; Dementia Tax – to name only a small number. In the last three elections the Conservatives have promised a reduction of immigration to the 10,000s, which has just not happened. Yet apparently they are the more trustable party. My point is, anyone that takes a political manifesto as an exact representation of what is going to happen over the next 5 years, is an idealist. A manifesto, in my mind, represents more of an overview of the political direction of a political party. Of course, this should not be the case, but again, it is, and the conservative party are perhaps one of the largest instigators of these political fibs. My point is, the call for Corbyn to resign as a result of a single u-turn is like asking Theresa May to not run through fields of wheat. It’s bad when it happens but it is, unfortunately, inevitable.

The main reason why this tweet was so frustrating to me was it’s use of a recurring argument that I’ve seen used by so many anti-Corbyn commentators, such as those in the Telegraph; that is that young people who voted for Labour only did so for their own benefit AKA no students fees/pay off of student loans. I do not set myself out to be a spokesperson of the young Labour electorate so feel free to disagree with me. However, I personally did not vote for Labour because they offered me nice, fluffy things, such as no tuition fees, no student debt etc. I voted for Labour because I
believe that socialism and left wing politics can and will work in today’s society. I see a Britain with unjust poverty, a huge class divide and an elite, Etonian government that seeks to line their own pockets and help their mates, rather than provide a stable welfare system that actually works and an NHS that works for those who need it. My core belief is equality in the sense that everyone is entitled to the aid in order to achieve whatever they want regardless of class, income or race. Honestly, I would rather not enter my adult life £30,000+ in debt, but there is other people in this country who are far worse off and the state are doing less and less to support them. Corbyn is the first political leader in my lifetime who recognises this and is pushing forward socialist ideas in order to settle the economic gap within this country. He is an MP who believes that working class people are worth more to our country than we give them credit. He is an MP who has been on the right side of history his entire career. He is an MP who, as far as I can tell, has genuine conviction in the policies that he sets forward which aim to help the most vulnerable in our society. The idea that I voted in my own self interest is bullshit. Socialism is based on empathy and sharing. Socialism can and will work when everyone in society stops caring only for their own self and stop taking a care for others.

It strikes me that this view of voting for your own self interest regardless of what anybody else needs is a largely right-wing, Conservative way of voting. It is seemingly beyond the comprehension of Tory commentators that young people could vote on behalf of everybody rather than their own self-interest. If you want to vote with only your own life in mind then that’s your selfish prerogative. But, without sounding wanky, the youth is the future. And I’m proud to say that my generation is perhaps the most genuinely compassionate and tolerant generation this country has every seen. And for me, the future looks extremely bright, not just for me, but for the world as a whole.

But what do I know? I’m just an impressionable young person.

Alexander Northwood

@_Northwood