It is just under three years since Gordon Brown moved into Number 10 and the media were furiously making their predictions. Prospect didn’t waste time with such prognosticating, though: it ran a six-part symposium on Gordon Brown the intellectual.
Because he never had to lead his party to victory in an election in order to become PM, perhaps he was a heavyweight the likes of which we will never see in Number 10 again. He certainly took learning seriously. John Lloyd wrote:
“Brown has a kind of contempt for pure intellectuals,” says an aide. “He has little use for those for whom ideas are everything. He reads and talks and thinks with practice in mind.”
His reading was substantial. A single speech contained references to
“George Orwell, Douglas Bader, Andrew Marr, Neal Ascherson, Tom Nairn, Linda Colley, Norman Davies, Roger Scruton, Simon Heffer, Ferdinand Mount, Melanie Phillips, Montesquieu, David Goodhart, Herman Ousley, Bernard Crick, Henry Grattan, Matthew Arnold, Edmund Burke, Winston Churchill, Adam Smith, Jonathan Sacks and Benjamin Disraeli. He probably read all of them.”
But some said he was a monomaniac bookworm, burrowing into scholarship late at night and early in the morning to no avail but the enrichment of his own knowledge. Daniel Johnson wrote:
“His very self-sufficiency as a thinker has induced a certain hubristic indifference to others. Brown has formed few important relationships with leading intellectual contemporaries. And I doubt whether he would condescend to appeal for support from intellectuals, as Blair was quite ready to do in 1997.”
Read John Lloyd’s piece, An intellectual in power, here