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When Gordon was in charge

Martin Rosenbaum | 15:05 UK time, Tuesday, 20 March 2007

The personality of Gordon Brown seems to be a matter of topical interest these days.

So what was he like when he was actually the man in the top job - as an Edinburgh University student who was elected Rector of the University back in the 1970s?.

Time perhaps to revisit a piece I wrote a couple of years ago, having made a freedom of information request to the University for documents from the time.

And here are some of the original documents, which I have not previously posted.

He made it clear he wanted to know everything that had been going on in meetings, starting with the Parking Sub-Committee.

He showed an early interest in financial prudence.

He rose to the defence of students accused of excessive drinking.

But he apparently wasn't pleased when the BBC failed to interview him.

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 05:55 PM on 20 Mar 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Talking of Open Secrets, Martin, I still feel I do not know the Chancellor of the Exchequer and how long has he been in place? This assessment is well merited I feel if only for peace of mind who is favourite to replace the PM is suited to said role.

  • 2.
  • At 08:05 PM on 20 Mar 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Open Secrets?

I am afraid the ex Civil Servants too are a lost cause as far as straight forwardness is concerned if Lord Turnbull's reported remark is anything to go by. In commenting on his published remarks on Mr Gordon Brown it was reported he said the remarks "Weren't appropriate"!

Fine but were they (allegedly) true, my Lord, were they (allegedly) true?

That's an interesting piece, Martin, but unfortunately like a lot of BBC journalism that looks to the past, it doesn't really grasp what was felt to be at stake at the time. I know it might seem funny that Brown wanted to look at the parking sub-committee's minutes and request an extra filing cabinet, and parallels can be drawn with his penny-pinching image today. But there was a genuine social struggle in the 1970s to which student politics aimed to contribute. Anyone with any knowledge of E.P. Thompson and the affair of the 'Warwick Files' (Warwick University officials spying on leftist academics and students) knows that universities were one of the battle fronts for conservative and progressive forces. Students had to take extreme measures to force universities to grant them the right to unionise. The reason why Edinburgh University wanted to shut Gordon Brown up is that back in those days he was as close to a socialist as a Labour party member could get; they didn't want him making "political" speeches precisely because of its likely leftist content. In the 1970s there were frequent strikes by miners, seamen and other workers, as part of a struggle over the distribution of society's wealth which, although it must appear totally alien to today's de-politicised and apathetic society, was very real and inspired genuine fear on the part of the establishment. I wish that the BBC could acknowledge the social conflict and what was at stake in the past in its reporting.

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