Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown came to the LSE on Wednesday 8th November, delivering a candid and anecdotal speech about his life in politics in front of a packed crowd in the Old Theatre. A lively Q&A session resulted in the talk over-running by around 30 minutes.
The event, called “Gordon Brown: a Life in Politics,” was intended to celebrate the release of Mr. Brown’s forthcoming memoir, “My Life, Our Times.” It was organised and hosted by the LSE European Institute alongside the Dahrendof Forum. Gordon Brown is United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education and, notably, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (2007 – 2010). He is also the longest-serving Chancellor of the Exchequer (1997 – 2007) in modern history.
The queue to hear Mr Brown speak was notable, stretching all the way to the end of the Old Building in the run up to the event.
The talk, which was chaired by LSE Director Minouche Shafik, was not underpinned by a rigid agenda, allowing for Mr Brown to meander through light-hearted personal anecdotes and memories from a decades-long career on the frontline of UK and international politics, while also touching on more serious notes like Brexit, the future of neoliberalism, and social justice across the global economy.
Mr Brown’s opening ice-breaker was a story was about coming to the LSE library some 40 years ago for research, and realising that someone had nicked the 50 pound note from his pocket within minutes of his arrival. “That was really my first experience with the LSE”, he said jokingly, to the delight of the crowd.
At other points, Mr Brown’s tone was more severe. He spent considerable time talking about the economic and moral issue of tax evasion, which has recently regained prominence in international political discourse following the release of the so-called “Paradise Papers”; a report that has implicated hundreds of politicians and celebrities for their off-shore tax avoidance schemes. “We need international cooperation to tackle tax avoidance, with sanctions and arrests for non-compliance,” said the former PM. Later, the former New Labour man told Minouche: “social justice and economic success go hand in hand.”
Perhaps the funniest moment of the talk came when an audience member keenly asked Mr Brown what he thought of Jeremy Corbyn. With a sigh, Mr Brown looked at his watched and said “how long have you got?.”