20th February 1951

Prime minister Gordon Brown is born

James Gordon Brown was born in Renfrewshire and grew up in Kirkaldy. He studied history at the University of Edinburgh from which he graduated in 1972. Seven years later, he took the lead in the campaign for an independent Scottish Parliament in the country’s 1979 referendum on devolution. Although the Yes campaign attracted more votes than that against the independent Parliament, less than 40% of the Scottish electorate as a whole voted in favour and it thus failed to pass.

In 1989, he signed the Claim of Right, which declared the sovereignty of the Scottish people.

Elected to Parliament

By then, Brown had been an MP for six years, having been elected to represent Dunfermline East for the Labour Party. While at Parliament, he shared an office with Tony Blair, with whom he would go on to reshape British politics.

In 1992, he was appointed shadow chancellor and, following the Labour party victory at the national election of 1997, in which Labour beat the incumbent Conservative Party, he moved to 11 Downing Street upon his installation as Chancellor of the Exchequer in Tony Blair’s government.

Independence for the Bank

One of his first acts as Chancellor was to give the Bank of England its independence, and the ability to set interest rates. More controversially, he later sold off more than half of Britain’s gold reserves at a time when gold prices were historically low. He defined ‘five economic tests’ that would determine whether Britain ever adopted the Euro in place of pounds Sterling, and, at the turn of the millennium, he instigated a significant increase in spending on Scotland.

Gordon Brown becomes Prime Minister

Labour won three elections in a row under Tony Blair, after which Blair announced that he would not fight a fourth as leader. In 2006, Blair stepped down as leader and, on 27 June the following year, Brown was appointed in his place. Britain had a new prime minister, and Brown was the second Scottish-born man in a row to hold the position. Mirroring his early decision as Chancellor to delegate some parts of the role to the Bank of England, one of his first moves as Prime Minister was to cede some of the powers of office to Parliament – particularly, the ability to declare war.

Although he was initially popular, and polls indicated that he would have won an early election had he called one, he chose not to do so. Thus, he first went to the country following the 2008 global financial crisis, which had required the government to spend considerable sums rescuing failing banks and supporting business. The opposition Conservative Party did its best to lay much of the blame for the crisis on Labour itself. On 6 May 2010, Britain went to the polls, and returned an indecisive result. Although Brown retained the seat of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, the Conservative Party, under David Cameron, had secured more seats overall, although not sufficient to form a majority government.

Gordon Brown leaves office

Gordon Brown announced that he would resign to give Labour and the Liberal Democrats a better chance of forming a government, but this was in vain. The Liberal Democrats instead formed a coalition with the Conservative Party, and Brown left Downing Street with children and wife Sarah on 11 May 2010. He remained in Parliament and, in 2014, was a key player in the referendum on Scottish Independence, in which he campaigned for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom.

He left Parliament at the general election of May 2015.



Other events that occured in February

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