It’s the norm to denigrate Gordon Brown. But the former PM doesn’t deserve it

It is as if Westminster has become collectively deaf out of sheer loathing

Share

The words of a Syrian girl as she explained, in a letter to Gordon Brown, how her family has been forced to leave Homs were desperate. "Everything is lost. I feel like I should show you so you will believe me," she wrote of her school bombed and her hopes of the world coming to her rescue abandoned. This teenager had written to the former Prime Minister in his role as UN envoy for global education, and Mr Brown read out the letter to the House of Commons. The girl was a chess champion, a youth-group leader and a singer in her church choir. Hers is poignant individual story illustrating one of the planet's most pressing problems. Except that nobody was listening.

The chamber was nearly empty when the MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath rose to his feet last Thursday. And there was barely a mention of the content of his moving speech in the next day’s newspapers, and no coverage on TV. Instead, Mr Brown’s appearance triggered a round of sneering on Twitter, in the papers and even an item on the BBC’s Daily Politics asking whether he should just give up as an MP, given that he hardly ever appears in Parliament.

MPs, journalists and bloggers piled in, ridiculing the former PM for speaking to an empty chamber – look how hated he is, they all effectively said, nobody wants to hear what he has to say. At one point during Mr Brown’s speech, the Tory whip, Greg Hands, even interrupted him to call for the House to be adjourned. It was as if the entire Westminster establishment had become collectively deaf to what Mr Brown was saying out of sheer loathing for the man himself.

What have we come to when a former Prime Minister is treated in this way? Where is the respect for a holder of that office? It is true that Mr Brown was often accused of being a bully – as Chancellor and Prime Minister he was obsessive, demanding and he shouted at his staff. But, as he was then, in his post-Downing Street life he is passionate about education and social justice. He has made it his mission to fight for funding for the education of Syrian refugees. Another battle he has joined is the one to keep Scotland in the UK – his latest speech was on the subject this week, warning that Scottish pensioners would lose out under independence.

On these issues, Brown’s is an authentic voice. Mr Brown is more respected and admired in Scotland than David Cameron, George Osborne and arguably even Alistair Darling. A poll yesterday showed that 59 per cent of people believe that he is a help, rather than a hindrance, to the “Better Together” campaign. Those who jeer at Mr Brown for not making many appearances in Parliament are the same people who would like Scotland to remain in the UK. Surely it doesn’t take much to work out that Mr Brown remaining an MP gives him a platform to fight for this cause?

In any case, Mr Brown has not been entirely absent from Parliament. He has asked 24 Parliamentary Questions in the past year and has spoken in the chamber repeatedly on the issue of radiation in Dalgety Bay, which affects his constituents. Yes, he does not turn up every week to PMQs, but then why would he? John Major carried on as an MP for a whole Parliament after losing office, while Margaret Thatcher did two more years – and neither made regular appearances in the House. Then there are his children, the younger of whom, seven-year-old Fraser, has cystic fibrosis. As someone who had a relative with this disease, I know how draining this is on a family, with visits to hospital and daily physiotherapy.

Mr Brown’s decision to remain an MP is presumably driven by the belief that it brings him influence on his various missions. He should continue, if only for the sake of one Syrian girl.

Twitter: @janemerrick23

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Residents of the Gravesham constituency are 10 times closer to what Peter Hain scorns as the “Westminster elite” than are those of Linlithgow and East Falkirk  

Will no one stop the march of localism?

Jonathan Meades
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam