Movement pays tribute to a political colossus

Gordon Brown will be remembered as a doughty fighter for social justice at home and abroad and one of the country’s most successful Chancellors. He was also the...

Michael Stephenson (General Secretary — Co-operative Party)

Gordon Brown will go down in history as the first ever member of the Co-operative Party to serve as Prime Minister. But much more than that, he will take his rightful place in the history of the Movement for leading a government that provided the most comprehensive package of reforms for co-operatives. 

The review of the legislation governing the co-operative and mutual sector provided enormous benefits to co-operative organisations and finally placed them on a level playing field with other forms of business; something no government had achieved before. 

His values as a co-operator shone through not just in his time as Prime Minister but throughout his Parliamentary career. He once said: “Throughout our history, the Co-operative Movement has not only provided services on which ordinary people rely, but has strengthened the very community bonds from which we flourish.” 

That commitment to the values of co-operation and the successful application of those values to political action were a hallmark of his time in office. Earlier this year he gave his full backing to the launch of the Friends of the 

Co-operative Ideal, a new group of MPs dedicated to supporting the co-operative principle. And the election manifesto he launched on behalf of the Labour Party in April had no fewer than 24 policy initiatives drawn from the Co-operative Party’s manifesto. 

It is now up to the next generation of Labour/Co-op MP’s to take forward Gordon Brown’s legacy and make sure our values and principles shape the future of our nation and our world.


Gareth Thomas MP (Chair — Co-operative Party)

Without Gordon there would quite simply have been no modernisation of co-operative law. At the Treasury he overturned civil service opposition to our first Private Members Bills and helped the Co-operative Party transform the legal landscape for our Movement.

As well as his handling of the global economic crisis, his leadership in the fight against global poverty stands out too. He was determined to draw in world leaders, international organisations and celebrities alike into the effort to make the world a fairer place for the poorest.

He was a giant, a huge political figure and he was ours; a champion for co-operation and one of the most influential figures in our and the Labour Party’s achievements.


Peter Hunt (Chief Executive — Mutuo)

As both Chancellor and Prime Minister, Gordon has been a strong ally and friend of the Co-operative Movement. 

His personal support for updating co-operative legislation was testament to his belief in mutuality and the power of collective action. However busy he was, Gordon always had time for co-operatives. 

Gordon was a decisive leader of our country at a time of unprecedented global financial crisis; time will show how important this was to the future of Britain. 

The media chose to overlook his personal decency and natural kindness. His many friends continue to benefit from it. I wish Gordon and Sarah a well earned rest, and many enjoyable years with their young family.


Ed Mayo (Secretary General — Co-operatives UK)

Gordon Brown is a giant among politicians for what he did for global justice. That is what I told him in the public setting of the closing conference of the five-year Jubilee 2000 campaign on December 2nd, 2000. 

It was the day my father died. I heard the news as I wandered out into Trafalgar Square, so the details are frozen in my mind. 

Gordon Brown was the first minister to enter the Treasury steeped in the writing and critique of the radical economist Susan George — author of tracts on poverty and debt. With his team, he picked up the contact with the campaign I and others had started on the debts of the poorest countries, who were paying more in servicing their external debts than on the health and education of their children. 

We brought 70,000 people on to the streets of Birmingham to form a human chain around the G7 leaders, while in the corridors of power, Gordon Brown corralled the G7 Finance Ministers into action on debt cancellation. 

The campaign, which I chaired, became Drop the Debt and then led on to the Make Poverty History coalition — all of which Gordon Brown did much to back.

As a result of what he helped to do in cancelling the debt for the poorest countries, twice as many children in countries like Tanzania now go to primary school.

When people do the right thing, they deserve the credit. From the day my father died, I have always thought “good for you, Gordon Brown”.


Helen Eadie (Labour/Co-op MSP for Dunfermline East)

As Gordon Brown left Downing Street, he again showed why he was the right person to lead the United Kingdom. There was no pomp or ceremony, just a dignified exit. As a new era of right-wing coalition begins I fear we will see the commitment to social justice in the UK government ending.

Gordon Brown too often got talked about as the ‘architect of New Labour’, but what was more important was he was the architect of Sure Start for our children, of the minimum wage, of child tax credits and the winter fuel payment for pensioners. He was the architect of a policy that meant the UK set aside record sums to tackle global poverty and it is one of the reasons why Gordon is so highly regarded on the world stage.

Faced with the worst global recession since the 1920’s lesser politicians would have frozen or panicked, but Gordon made the right decisions that meant we have not seen the horrors of the Thatcherite 1980s return. These decisions, it must be pointed out, were opposed by the Conservatives at every turn.

Here in Fife, Gordon will continue to do what he has done his entire political life and that is to serve those who elected him. The voters of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath made it clear on election night what they thought of Gordon and that’s why he was returned again with an increased majority.

The term statesman gets bandied about these days. Gordon Brown is one of the few that truly deserve that description and history will show that, both as Chancellor and Prime Minister, Gordon made Britain better.


Len Wardle (Chair, Co-operative Group)

At the beginning of the year, Gordon Brown agreed to host a reception for the Friends of the Co-operative Ideal at 10 Downing Street. 

I had decided to take with me a painting of Gordon that had been done by a prisoner as part of the Co-operative Group’s sponsorship — now in its fifth year — of the Art in Prisons exhibition. 

Unfortunately on this occasion, he was called away at short notice to Northern Ireland to play a pivotal role in a series of negotiations. Ed Miliband, who alongside his role as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change also had responsibility for crafting Labour’s most recent manifesto, instead received the portrait.

However, only a few days later, I was delighted to receive a charming letter from Gordon thanking me for the painting and regretting that he had not been there on the evening. The letter went on to praise the work of both the Co-operative Group and also the Co-operative Party.

The Gordon Brown that I encountered on many occasions, often social, either on the Labour Party conference circuit or at events associated with the charity, Piggy Bank Kids, that his wife, Sarah, set up was a generous and thoughtful man. 

In his many years in Cabinet, first as Chancellor and then as Prime Minister, Gordon Brown was clearly a man for whom social justice was at the heart of his political philosophy. He will be remembered as a statesman who has played a historically significant role in addressing the world’s current economic crisis.


Harry Cairney (Vice-President, Scotmid Co-op)

Gordon Brown will probably go down in history as the Prime Minister who failed to receive the recognition he deserved for the statesmanship and professional manner in which he lead the country during times of great difficulty.

He has been an advocate for social justice throughout his life, both at home and abroad, and has given extraordinary service to this country over 13 years as Chancellor and Prime Minister. Communities around the country will benefit for years thanks to decisions made by him.

I was fortunate to chair many fringe meetings at Labour’s Scottish Conference over the years when Gordon was the main speaker. He was always the professional, willing to turn up and give his time and was always understanding and very compassionate.

This country will owe Gordon Brown a heavy debt of gratitude for many years to come. I wish him well for the future.


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