George Brown, Baron George-Brown
George Alfred Brown, Baron George-Brown, PC
Privy Council of the United Kingdom
Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, usually known simply as the Privy Council, is a formal body of advisers to the Sovereign in the United Kingdom...

 (2 September 1914 – 2 June 1985) was a British Labour politician
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

, who served as the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party from 1960 to 1970, and served in a number of positions in the Cabinet, most notably as Foreign Secretary, in the Labour Government of the 1960s. He was a leader of the right-wing element of the Labour Party, and an effective, if aggressive, election campaigner, but was ultimately unable to cope with the pressures of high office without excessive drinking
Alcoholism is a broad term for problems with alcohol, and is generally used to mean compulsive and uncontrolled consumption of alcoholic beverages, usually to the detriment of the drinker's health, personal relationships, and social standing...

. He was always known as 'George Brown' and for this reason he insisted on combining his first name and surname in his peerage
The Peerage is a legal system of largely hereditary titles in the United Kingdom, which constitute the ranks of British nobility and is part of the British honours system...

 title—so as to be familiarly referred to as 'Lord George-Brown'—which was created on 6 November 1970.

Early life

Brown was born in his maternal grandmother's flat, which was in a working class
Working class
Working class is a term used in the social sciences and in ordinary conversation to describe those employed in lower tier jobs , often extending to those in unemployment or otherwise possessing below-average incomes...

 housing estate in Lambeth
Lambeth is a district of south London, England, and part of the London Borough of Lambeth. It is situated southeast of Charing Cross.-Toponymy:...

 built by the housing charity
Charitable organization
A charitable organization is a type of non-profit organization . It differs from other types of NPOs in that it centers on philanthropic goals A charitable organization is a type of non-profit organization (NPO). It differs from other types of NPOs in that it centers on philanthropic goals A...

 the Peabody Trust
Peabody Trust
Peabody Trust , founded in 1862, is one of London's oldest and largest housing associations with over 19,000 properties. It also a charity and urban regeneration agency...

. His father had worked as a grocer's packer, lorry driver and served in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 as a chauffeur to senior army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 officers. Brown went to Gray Street Elementary School in Blackfriars where he did well enough to pass an entrance examination to the West Square Central School, which was a junior grammar school
Grammar school
A grammar school is one of several different types of school in the history of education in the United Kingdom and some other English-speaking countries, originally a school teaching classical languages but more recently an academically-oriented secondary school.The original purpose of mediaeval...

. Brown had already adopted his parents' left-wing views and later claimed (probably accurately) to have delivered leaflets for the Labour Party
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

 in the 1922 general election
United Kingdom general election, 1922
The United Kingdom general election of 1922 was held on 15 November 1922. It was the first election held after most of the Irish counties left the United Kingdom to form the Irish Free State, and was won by Andrew Bonar Law's Conservatives, who gained an overall majority over Labour, led by John...

 when he was 8 years old.

The school wanted Brown to stay on beyond the age of 15, but Brown decided to leave to earn his living and help his parents financially. He started work as a junior clerk in the ledger department of a City firm, but was made redundant after pressing his fellow clerks to join a trade union
Trade union
A trade union, trades union or labor union is an organization of workers that have banded together to achieve common goals such as better working conditions. The trade union, through its leadership, bargains with the employer on behalf of union members and negotiates labour contracts with...

. From 1932 he worked as a fur salesman for the John Lewis Partnership
John Lewis Partnership
The John Lewis Partnership is an employee-owned UK partnership which operates John Lewis department stores, Waitrose supermarkets and a number of other services...

, dropping his Cockney
The term Cockney has both geographical and linguistic associations. Geographically and culturally, it often refers to working class Londoners, particularly those in the East End...

 accent to appeal to society customers. Brown earned a great deal on commission. During this time, Brown continued his education through London County Council
London County Council
London County Council was the principal local government body for the County of London, throughout its 1889–1965 existence, and the first London-wide general municipal authority to be directly elected. It covered the area today known as Inner London and was replaced by the Greater London Council...

 night schools and the Workers' Educational Association
Workers' Educational Association
The Workers’ Educational Association seeks to provide access to education and lifelong learning for adults from all backgrounds, and in particular those who have previously missed out on education. The International Federation of Workers Education Associations has consultative status to UNESCO...

. The poverty of his upbringing led Brown in later life to resent those who had a more privileged background and a university education.

Trade Union organiser

Shortly after his marriage to Sophie Levene on 22 April 1937, Brown was employed as a ledger clerk with the Transport and General Workers Union, and appointed District Organiser for Watford
Watford is a town and borough in Hertfordshire, England, situated northwest of central London and within the bounds of the M25 motorway. The borough is separated from Greater London to the south by the urbanised parish of Watford Rural in the Three Rivers District.Watford was created as an urban...

 the next year. By now Brown was active within the Labour Party and the Labour League of Youth
League of Youth
The League of Youth was the youth organisation of the British Labour Party from 1926 to the 1960s. It accepted members between the ages of 16 and 25....

. He ran as a moderate candidate for the Chairmanship but at the Labour Party conference in 1937 he was defeated by Ted Willis, a left-wing candidate later known as a television scriptwriter. At the 1939 Labour Party conference Brown made his mark by a strong speech demanding the expulsion of Stafford Cripps
Stafford Cripps
Sir Richard Stafford Cripps was a British Labour politician of the first half of the 20th century. During World War II he served in a number of positions in the wartime coalition, including Ambassador to the Soviet Union and Minister of Aircraft Production...

 for his advocacy of a Popular Front
Popular front
A popular front is a broad coalition of different political groupings, often made up of leftists and centrists. Being very broad, they can sometimes include centrist and liberal forces as well as socialist and communist groups...

. For the rest of his life, Cripps refused to speak to Brown.

His TGWU activities brought him into close contact with Ernest Bevin
Ernest Bevin
Ernest Bevin was a British trade union leader and Labour politician. He served as general secretary of the powerful Transport and General Workers' Union from 1922 to 1945, as Minister of Labour in the war-time coalition government, and as Foreign Secretary in the post-war Labour Government.-Early...

, the union's founder and General Secretary. Bevin was one of the Labour leaders brought into the wartime coalition government. Brown himself served as a temporary civil servant in the Ministry of Agriculture from 1940 onwards.

Member of Parliament

As a TGWU official, Brown was an attractive candidate to Labour constituencies seeking a candidate, as the TGWU would sponsor him and pay election expenses. He was selected for Belper
Belper is a town and civil parish in the local government district of Amber Valley in Derbyshire, England.-Geography:Belper is situated eight miles north of Derby and is centred in the valley of the River Derwent...

, a mixed constituency near Derby
Derby , is a city and unitary authority in the East Midlands region of England. It lies upon the banks of the River Derwent and is located in the south of the ceremonial county of Derbyshire. In the 2001 census, the population of the city was 233,700, whilst that of the Derby Urban Area was 229,407...

 which was one of the top Labour target seats. In the 1945 general election
United Kingdom general election, 1945
The United Kingdom general election of 1945 was a general election held on 5 July 1945, with polls in some constituencies delayed until 12 July and in Nelson and Colne until 19 July, due to local wakes weeks. The results were counted and declared on 26 July, due in part to the time it took to...

 Brown won the seat with a majority of nearly 9,000. He was invited as one of a dozen 'Young Victors' to a private dinner given by Hugh Dalton
Hugh Dalton
Edward Hugh John Neale Dalton, Baron Dalton PC was a British Labour Party politician who served as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1945 to 1947, when he was implicated in a political scandal involving budget leaks....

 on 30 July 1945 who was talent-spotting and networking. Brown was immediately chosen to be a Parliamentary Private Secretary
Parliamentary Private Secretary
A Parliamentary Private Secretary is a role given to a United Kingdom Member of Parliament by a senior minister in government or shadow minister to act as their contact for the House of Commons; this role is junior to that of Parliamentary Under-Secretary, which is a ministerial post, salaried by...

 (PPS) by George Isaacs
George Isaacs
George Alfred Isaacs JP DL was a British politician and trades unionist who served in the government of Clement Attlee....

, who had followed the promoted Bevin as Minister of Labour
Secretary of State for Employment
The Secretary of State for Employment was a position in the Cabinet of the United Kingdom. In 1995 it was merged with Secretary of State for Education to make the Secretary of State for Education and Employment...

, but his time with Isaacs was brief.

Brown was both adept at understanding political issues and how to communicate them, and convivial and generally popular within the Parliamentary Labour Party (save among the left-wing faction, whom he attacked as 'long-haired intellectuals'). He briefly worked as PPS for Chancellor of the Exchequer
Chancellor of the Exchequer
The Chancellor of the Exchequer is the title held by the British Cabinet minister who is responsible for all economic and financial matters. Often simply called the Chancellor, the office-holder controls HM Treasury and plays a role akin to the posts of Minister of Finance or Secretary of the...

 Hugh Dalton
Hugh Dalton
Edward Hugh John Neale Dalton, Baron Dalton PC was a British Labour Party politician who served as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1945 to 1947, when he was implicated in a political scandal involving budget leaks....

 from April 1947, at a time when the economic situation of Britain had barely improved and the Chancellor needed the maximum political support. Brown launched an unsuccessful plot to have Clement Attlee
Clement Attlee
Clement Richard Attlee, 1st Earl Attlee, KG, OM, CH, PC, FRS was a British Labour politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1945 to 1951, and as the Leader of the Labour Party from 1935 to 1955...

 replaced as Prime Minister
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the Head of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister and Cabinet are collectively accountable for their policies and actions to the Sovereign, to Parliament, to their political party and...

 by Ernest Bevin, although without consulting Bevin who did not approve.

Ministerial office

Attlee, despite knowing all about Brown's plot to depose him, swiftly appointed Brown as Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture. The Prime Minister had decided that it would be best if Brown were kept busy. At the Ministry of Agriculture, Brown worked to pass the Agriculture Act 1947 which provided price support to farmers, and also to provide more arable land and ease shortages of machinery and foodstuffs. Government policy aimed at increasing food production so that rationing could be lifted, but progress was slow. However, Attlee grew to appreciate his talent.

When his mentor Bevin died in April 1951, Brown was appointed Minister of Works
First Commissioner of Works
The First Commissioner of Works and Public Buildings was a position within the government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. It took over some of the functions of the First Commissioner of Woods and Forests in 1851 when the portfolio of Crown holdings was divided into the public...

 in the reshuffle - at the head of a Ministry but not in the Cabinet. Brown inherited a long-running struggle by the Government to have the Tower of London
Tower of London
Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress, more commonly known as the Tower of London, is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London, England. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the City of London by the open space...

 open to tourists on Sunday, and managed to solve it by outsmarting the Constable of the Tower in negotiations.


Brown ceased to be a cabinet minister when Labour lost the 1951 general election
United Kingdom general election, 1951
The 1951 United Kingdom general election was held eighteen months after the 1950 general election, which the Labour Party had won with a slim majority of just five seats...

 at the end of October. As with other government ministers, Brown found himself forced to rely on an inadequate parliamentary salary which led him to consider a return to being a trade union official. However, in 1953 he was hired as a consultant by the Mirror Group
Trinity Mirror
Trinity Mirror plc is a large British newspaper and magazine publisher. It is Britain's biggest newspaper group, publishing 240 regional papers as well as the national Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and People, and the Scottish Sunday Mail and Daily Record. Its headquarters are at Canary Wharf in...

 newspapers, enabling him to stay in politics.

Brown was a partisan participant in the Labour Party's internecine struggles in the early 1950s, opposing the Bevanite
Bevanism was the ideological argument for the Bevanites, a movement on the Left wing of the Labour Party in the late 1950s and led by Nye Bevan. They were opposed by the Gaitskellites, who are variously described as Centre-left, Social Democrats, or 'moderates' within the Party.Bevanism was...

 campaign. His natural campaigning ability became prominent, but also his tendency to be rude to those with whom he had disagreements. Shortly after the 1955 general election
United Kingdom general election, 1955
The 1955 United Kingdom general election was held on 26 May 1955, four years after the previous general election. It resulted in a substantially increased majority of 60 for the Conservative government under new leader and prime minister Sir Anthony Eden against Labour Party, now in their 20th year...

, Brown was elected to the Shadow Cabinet
Shadow Cabinet
The Shadow Cabinet is a senior group of opposition spokespeople in the Westminster system of government who together under the leadership of the Leader of the Opposition form an alternative cabinet to the government's, whose members shadow or mark each individual member of the government...

 for the first time; from that December Brown found it easier to win promotion as his friend Hugh Gaitskell
Hugh Gaitskell
Hugh Todd Naylor Gaitskell CBE was a British Labour politician, who held Cabinet office in Clement Attlee's governments, and was the Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition from 1955, until his death in 1963.-Early life:He was born in Kensington, London, the third and youngest...

 became Leader of the Labour Party. Brown had a private but widely publicised shouting-match with Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 leaders Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev led the Soviet Union during part of the Cold War. He served as First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964, and as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, or Premier, from 1958 to 1964...

 and Nikolai Bulganin
Nikolai Bulganin
Nikolai Alexandrovich Bulganin was a prominent Soviet politician, who served as Minister of Defense and Premier of the Soviet Union . The Bulganin beard is named after him.-Early career:...

 when he was part of a Labour Party delegation invited to dine with them on their British visit in April 1956. That year, he lost the election for Treasurer of the Labour Party
Treasurer of the Labour Party
The Treasurer of the Labour Party is a position on the National Executive Committee of the British Labour Party.Although a post with little power, in the past, it was often hotly contested by people who later became big names in British politics: Arthur Greenwood beat Herbert Morrison in 1943, Hugh...

 to Aneurin Bevan
Aneurin Bevan
Aneurin "Nye" Bevan was a British Labour Party politician who was the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party from 1959 until his death in 1960. The son of a coal miner, Bevan was a lifelong champion of social justice and the rights of working people...


Deputy leadership

After Bevan died in the summer of 1960, the Deputy Leadership of the Labour Party became vacant at a time when the Labour Party was severely divided over Clause IV
Clause IV
Clause IV historically refers to part of the 1918 text of the British Labour Party constitution which set out the aims and values of the party. Before its revision in 1995, its application was the subject of considerable dispute.-Text:...

 of the party constitution. Brown was encouraged to stand as the candidate of the Gaitskellite
Gaitskellism was the ideology of a faction of the British Labour Party. Led by Hugh Gaitskell, Gaitskellites represented the political right of the Labour Party and were opposed by the Bevanites, a more Leftist faction of the party led by Aneurin Bevan...

 right; the other candidates were left-winger Frederick Lee and the moderate but insufficiently senior James Callaghan
James Callaghan
Leonard James Callaghan, Baron Callaghan of Cardiff, KG, PC , was a British Labour politician, who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1976 to 1979 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1976 to 1980...

. Brown was elected, beating Lee by 146 votes to 83 when Callaghan had been eliminated. Gaitskell as Leader and Brown as Deputy Leader were not viewed by most of the Labour left as a balanced ticket, and Brown was challenged for the job in both 1961, by Barbara Castle
Barbara Castle
Barbara Anne Castle, Baroness Castle of Blackburn , PC, GCOT was a British Labour Party politician....

, and 1962, by Harold Wilson
Harold Wilson
James Harold Wilson, Baron Wilson of Rievaulx, KG, OBE, FRS, FSS, PC was a British Labour Member of Parliament, Leader of the Labour Party. He was twice Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the 1960s and 1970s, winning four general elections, including a minority government after the...

. Part of his job was to improve Labour's by-election
A by-election is an election held to fill a political office that has become vacant between regularly scheduled elections....

 campaigning, and he was successful in winning several - most notably, Middlesbrough
Middlesbrough is a large town situated on the south bank of the River Tees in north east England, that sits within the ceremonial county of North Yorkshire...


Gaitskell's sudden death in January 1963 made his challenge for the party leadership inevitable. However he mishandled the campaign badly. At the first Shadow Cabinet meeting after Gaitskell's death, Brown and his Leadership rival Harold Wilson agreed to a clean fight. Wilson, who was accused by the right of undermining party unity, then informed the press that each agreed to serve under the other, which countered his reputation for plotting; Brown repudiated any such agreement, laying himself open to that accusation.

Personal problems

Many on the right of the Labour Party, most notably Anthony Crosland
Anthony Crosland
Charles Anthony Raven Crosland , otherwise Tony Crosland or C.A.R. Crosland, was a British Labour Party politician and author. He served as Member of Parliament for South Gloucestershire and later for Great Grimsby...

 and Denis Healey
Denis Healey
Denis Winston Healey, Baron Healey CH, MBE, PC is a British Labour politician, who served as Secretary of State for Defence from 1964 to 1970 and Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1974 to 1979.-Early life:...

, supported James Callaghan for the leadership. They were opposed to Wilson's being elected leader, but they had good reason not to trust Brown. Partly this was because of private knowledge of his excessive drinking, which exacerbated his rude and aggressive style of politics. Crosland called the leadership election "A choice between a crook (Wilson) and a drunk (Brown)." Many Labour MPs who were prepared to accept Brown as deputy leader were unhappy with the idea of his being in charge, and Wilson was easily elected.

The mainstream press had not publicised his drinking, but it later became apparent when Brown was invited on Associated-Rediffusion
Associated-Rediffusion, later Rediffusion, London, was the British ITV contractor for London and parts of the surrounding counties, on weekdays between 1954 and 29 July 1968. Transmissions started on 22 September 1955.-Formation:...

 television to pay tribute to John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

 after his assassination (Brown was probably the closest Labour politician to Kennedy). Brown had come from a dinner in Shoreditch
Shoreditch is an area of London within the London Borough of Hackney in England. It is a built-up part of the inner city immediately to the north of the City of London, located east-northeast of Charing Cross.-Etymology:...

 where he had already drunk a great deal, and drank more while preparing to go on air - having a row with actor Eli Wallach
Eli Wallach
Eli Herschel Wallach is an American film, television and stage actor, who gained fame in the late 1950s. For his performance in Baby Doll he won a BAFTA Award for Best Newcomer and a Golden Globe nomination. One of his most famous roles is that of Tuco in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly...

 which became physical. When Brown went on air, millions of viewers saw him interpret a fair question as an accusation of his having overstated his closeness, then give a morose and slurred tribute from which it was apparent he was intoxicated. Brown had to issue a public apology.

Brown bitterly resented his leadership defeat, which came only weeks after he had defeated Wilson for the deputy leadership. He disappeared for five days after the result was declared, using an assumed name to book a flight to Glasgow
Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland and third most populous in the United Kingdom. The city is situated on the River Clyde in the country's west central lowlands...

; the newspapers were full of stories about the vanishing politician. When he returned he demanded of Wilson that he be appointed Shadow Foreign Secretary, which Wilson refused.

He retained the deputy leadership and despite his personal differences, played an important part in advising Wilson about Labour's campaign strategy in the 1964 general election
United Kingdom general election, 1964
The United Kingdom general election of 1964 was held on 15 October 1964, more than five years after the preceding election, and thirteen years after the Conservative Party had retaken power...

. It was decided that Wilson would make only a limited number of major campaign speeches outside London, while Brown would tour the country speaking in all the marginal seats (his main theme was predicting an imminent economic crisis). Brown later calculated that he had made 100 speeches. In one he made a gaffe by suggesting that the mortgage interest rate could be cut to 3 per cent; the Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer Reginald Maudling
Reginald Maudling
Reginald Maudling was a British politician who held several Cabinet posts, including Chancellor of the Exchequer. He had been spoken of as a prospective Conservative leader since 1955, and was twice seriously considered for the post; he was Edward Heath's chief rival in 1965...

 was quick to capitalise on this and ask how much it would cost.

Department of Economic Affairs

Labour won the election with a small parliamentary majority. As previously arranged with Wilson, Brown was appointed to the newly created Department of Economic Affairs
Secretary of State for Economic Affairs
The Secretary of State for Economic Affairs was briefly an office of Her Majesty's government in the United Kingdom. It was established by Harold Wilson in October 1964...

 through which they both hoped to institute long-term economic planning and remove some of the power of the Treasury
HM Treasury
HM Treasury, in full Her Majesty's Treasury, informally The Treasury, is the United Kingdom government department responsible for developing and executing the British government's public finance policy and economic policy...

. Brown also took the honorific title of First Secretary of State
First Secretary of State
First Secretary of State is an occasionally used title within the Government of the United Kingdom, principally regarded as purely honorific. The title, which implies seniority over all other Secretaries of State, has no specific powers or authority attached to it beyond that of any other Secretary...

 to cover his seniority as Deputy Leader of the Party (only Brown claimed that he was actually the Deputy Prime Minister).

Immediately on taking office Brown was told that the budget deficit for the coming year was forecast at £800 million, double what the Labour Party had predicted as the worst possible figure before the election. The leading economic ministers were presented with three options, including devaluation
Devaluation is a reduction in the value of a currency with respect to those goods, services or other monetary units with which that currency can be exchanged....

 of the Pound Sterling
Pound sterling
The pound sterling , commonly called the pound, is the official currency of the United Kingdom, its Crown Dependencies and the British Overseas Territories of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, British Antarctic Territory and Tristan da Cunha. It is subdivided into 100 pence...

, to meet the crisis. They decided on a temporary surcharge on imported goods. However, over the next few months Brown was persuaded by his deputy Anthony Crosland that ruling out devaluation had been a mistake. The pound continued to be under pressure in 1965 and Brown struggled over a 12-hour meeting at the Trades Union Congress
Trades Union Congress
The Trades Union Congress is a national trade union centre, a federation of trade unions in the United Kingdom, representing the majority of trade unions...

 to persuade the unions to accept a tougher prices and incomes policy, to which he was personally opposed.

The most important function of the DEA was to prepare a 'National Plan' for the economy. Brown became personally identified with the project, which helped increase enthusiasm for it among officials and the Labour Party, while also interesting the press. After nearly a year's work the Plan was unveiled on 16 September 1965, pledging to cover "all aspects of the country's development for the next five years". The Plan called for a 25% growth in Gross Domestic Product
Gross domestic product
Gross domestic product refers to the market value of all final goods and services produced within a country in a given period. GDP per capita is often considered an indicator of a country's standard of living....

 (GDP) from 1964 to 1970, which worked out at 3.8% annually. There were 39 specific actions listed, although many were criticised as vague.

July measures

After the 1966 general election
United Kingdom general election, 1966
The 1966 United Kingdom general election on 31 March 1966 was called by sitting Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson. Wilson's decision to call an election turned on the fact that his government, elected a mere 17 months previously in 1964 had an unworkably small majority of only 4 MPs...

 at which Labour won re-election with a parliamentary majority of 96, the government was hit by a severe financial crisis. The question of devaluation was raised again in a more pressing way, with Brown now strongly supporting it, but Harold Wilson was firmly opposed, preferring a set of deflationary measures including spending cuts and interest rate rises. Brown believed that these measures would damage the economy. Chancellor of the Exchequer
Chancellor of the Exchequer
The Chancellor of the Exchequer is the title held by the British Cabinet minister who is responsible for all economic and financial matters. Often simply called the Chancellor, the office-holder controls HM Treasury and plays a role akin to the posts of Minister of Finance or Secretary of the...

 James Callaghan found himself in the middle, as he opposed devaluation but felt that without prompt action it was inevitable. Wilson tried to keep Brown on board, even offering to make him Chancellor should Callaghan resign, but Brown stood firm. When the Cabinet voted by 17-6 against devaluation, Brown sent a letter of resignation.

Wilson craftily sent the letter back to Brown so that he could deny having received it, and then sent George Wigg
George Wigg
George Edward Cecil Wigg, Baron Wigg PC was a British politician who only served in relatively junior offices but had a great deal of influence behind the scenes, especially with Harold Wilson. Wigg served in the British Army for almost all his career up to his election as Member of Parliament...

 to try to talk Brown out of it. This did not prevent the news reaching the public; Wigg then changed his position and told Brown that Wilson would accept his resignation. Bizarrely this convinced Brown to stay and he accepted all of Wilson's terms for staying in the government in a late night meeting before announcing his "un-resignation" to the press in Downing Street.

Foreign Secretary

Brown was reshuffled to become Foreign Secretary in August 1966, a job he coveted. This decision had implications for the government's stance on the European Economic Community
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

 as Brown had always favoured entry. Wilson had been sceptical, but not opposed outright, to joining but Brown persuaded him and the rest of the Labour Party to support an application. In May 1967 it was announced that Britain had made its second application to join. Like the first, it was vetoed by Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle
Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle was a French general and statesman who led the Free French Forces during World War II. He later founded the French Fifth Republic in 1958 and served as its first President from 1959 to 1969....


Brown's drinking became more pronounced as he became depressed by his loss of face in July 1966. His reaction to his depression was to launch vituperative attacks, for example at the son of newspaper proprietor Cecil King
Cecil Harmsworth King
Cecil Harmsworth King was owner of Mirror Group Newspapers, and later a director at the Bank of England .He came on his father's side from a Protestant Irish family, and was brought up in Ireland...

 in October 1967. After Wilson was told of this, Brown came round and told Wilson that he had just had a terrible row with his wife and could not continue in Government. More and more people were becoming aware of Brown's alcoholism, and Private Eye
Private Eye
Private Eye is a fortnightly British satirical and current affairs magazine, edited by Ian Hislop.Since its first publication in 1961, Private Eye has been a prominent critic and lampooner of public figures and entities that it deemed guilty of any of the sins of incompetence, inefficiency,...

managed to hint at the scandal with a parody of a memo titled "Brown: F.O. Acts". The memo gave translations into various languages for the words tired, overwrought, expansive, overworked, colourful, and emotional. This coined the phrase "tired and emotional
Tired and emotional
The phrase tired and emotional is a chiefly British euphemism for drunk. It was popularised by the British satirical magazine Private Eye in 1967 after being used in a spoof diplomatic memo to describe the state of Labour Cabinet minister George Brown, but is now used as a stock phrase...

" as a euphemism for drunk; this phrase was first used by his agent, Edward Eldred, when he had to make excuses for Brown's behaviour after a long flight.

Brown, indeed, once boasted that "Many Members of Parliament drink and womanise - now, I've never womanised"; which was almost certainly true. There was never a whisper about his sex-life during his career.

Rumoured Archbishop of Lima incident

During his time, and subsequently, a widely circulated but evidently false rumour had it that Brown had embarrassed himself while drunk at an official reception in South America. Brown was said to have lumbered over to a tall, elegant vision in red, and requested the honour of the next dance, to be told, "I will not dance with you for three reasons. The first is that you are drunk. The second is that the band is not playing a waltz, but the Peruvian national anthem
National Anthem of Peru
The Peruvian National Anthem is the national anthem of Peru. This anthem was adopted in 1821.-History:After Peru declared its independence, the general José de San Martín began a public contest to select the National March, which was published on 7 August 1821 in the Gaceta Ministerial...

. The final reason is that I am the Cardinal Archbishop of Lima
Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Lima
The Roman Catholic Metropolitan Archdiocese of Lima is part of the Roman Catholic Church in Peru which enjoys full communion with the Holy See. The Archdiocese was founded as the Diocese of Lima on 14 May 1541. The diocese was raised to the level of a metropolitan archdiocese by Pope Paul III on ...

." Although the story is amusing, checks have not substantiated it. Brown did not visit South America during his term, and the story had originally circulated about a different minister.


Despite devaluation in November 1967, the pound came again under severe pressure in March 1968. When Wilson wanted to declare an emergency bank holiday
Bank Holiday
A bank holiday is a public holiday in the United Kingdom or a colloquialism for public holiday in Ireland. There is no automatic right to time off on these days, although the majority of the population is granted time off work or extra pay for working on these days, depending on their contract...

 to give breathing space, he attempted to contact his Foreign Secretary. Brown could not be found and his staff reported his condition as "only 'so-so' when last seen," and so Wilson convened a special meeting of the Privy Council
Privy Council of the United Kingdom
Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, usually known simply as the Privy Council, is a formal body of advisers to the Sovereign in the United Kingdom...

 without him. Brown was incensed that Wilson had not tried further to contact him, and got together with other ministers who had not been informed to face down Wilson at a meeting in the early hours of the morning. Brown, who appeared very drunk, incoherently shouted at Wilson, who was almost as angry and stood up for himself. At the end of the meeting Brown stormed out.

It was unclear whether he had resigned but Brown did nothing the next day to apologise. At 6 o'clock that evening he sent a letter which said "I think it better that we should part company" but did not mention "resignation". Wilson decided to reply by accepting Brown's resignation but also sent a message saying that Brown had half an hour to say whether the letter had been misinterpreted. Brown did not act on this and so left the government, but not in the blaze of glory for which he had hoped.


Brown's constituency of Belper had been the site of considerable development since he had been elected. Most of the new housing was for middle-class areas near Derby and contained mostly Conservative voters. Although a Boundary Commission report in 1969 recommended the abolition of the seat, the Government decided to postpone the changes and Brown was forced to stand in a seat which was shifting away from his party. Added to this problem, he remained deputy leader of the Labour Party and toured the country making speeches for other Labour candidates during the 1970 general election
United Kingdom general election, 1970
The United Kingdom general election of 1970 was held on 18 June 1970, and resulted in a surprise victory for the Conservative Party under leader Edward Heath, who defeated the Labour Party under Harold Wilson. The election also saw the Liberal Party and its new leader Jeremy Thorpe lose half their...

. His Conservative opponent Geoffrey Stewart-Smith
Geoffrey Stewart-Smith
Geoffrey Stewart-Smith was a British politician. He served one term as Conservative Member of Parliament for Belper in Derbyshire after he defeated the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party George Brown...

 had spent the last four years nursing the constituency. Brown lost his seat by more than 2,000 votes.

In Mr Brown's speech shortly after the result, he famously said that he would 'lend' his constituency to the Conservatives.

Life peerage

Brown swiftly decided not to try to regain his seat and received a life peerage in the Dissolution Honours List
Dissolution Honours List
The Dissolution Honours List names those individuals receiving Honours from the Monarch at a time following the Dissolution of the United Kingdom Parliament. Typically, the list will include retiring MPs who are to be Life Peers. Sometimes the list will also include knighthoods for others who...

. When the award was announced, Brown told the press, "As I understand it, I have to pick a title — but I hope to everybody, I will simply remain George Brown." This foreshadowed a long dispute over the wording of the title. Brown wished to be "Lord George Brown," but Garter King of Arms
King of Arms
King of Arms is the senior rank of an officer of arms. In many heraldic traditions, only a king of arms has the authority to grant armorial bearings. In other traditions, the power has been delegated to other officers of similar rank.-Heraldic duties:...

 argued that peerage titles traditionally included only surnames, not forenames. Brown had no sympathy with the objection, and noted that there had been counter-examples such as Lord Ritchie-Calder
Peter Ritchie Calder
Peter Ritchie Ritchie-Calder, Baron Ritchie-Calder was a noted Scottish author, journalist and academic....

 and Lord Francis-Williams. Eventually, Garter King of Arms gave way on condition that Brown simultaneously change his surname to George-Brown, so finally his title ended as Baron George-Brown, of Jevington in the County of Sussex
Sussex , from the Old English Sūþsēaxe , is an historic county in South East England corresponding roughly in area to the ancient Kingdom of Sussex. It is bounded on the north by Surrey, east by Kent, south by the English Channel, and west by Hampshire, and is divided for local government into West...


In 1971 he published his autobiography In My Way, which Harold Wilson said privately was where he had always found Brown. He found work at the textile company Courtaulds, and later worked for Commercial Credit (Holdings) and British Northrop.

On 2 March 1976 George-Brown announced that he was leaving the Labour Party in protest at government legislation which strengthened the closed shop
Closed shop
A closed shop is a form of union security agreement under which the employer agrees to hire union members only, and employees must remain members of the union at all times in order to remain employed....

. This announcement was overshadowed when he collapsed and fell into a gutter, having to be helped out by newspaper reporters, which was presumed to be a result of his drinking. The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

the next day printed the opinion that "Lord George-Brown drunk is a better man than the Prime Minister sober." Harold Wilson was still in office, and the opinion had been voiced occasionally in private for many years by those who disliked the Labour left.


George-Brown became the president of the Social Democratic Alliance
Social Democratic Alliance (UK)
-Foundation:The group was founded in June 1975 by councillors and other individuals on the right wing of the Labour Party. Peter Stephenson, the editor of Socialist Commentary, became its chairman. The group claimed to stand in the tradition of Hugh Gaitskell's Campaign for Democratic Socialism,...

 in January 1981, and was a signatory to an advert in The Guardian
The Guardian
The Guardian, formerly known as The Manchester Guardian , is a British national daily newspaper in the Berliner format...

on 5 February, placed by the Campaign for Social Democracy
Campaign for Social Democracy
The Campaign for Social Democracy was a minor political party operating in the United Kingdom in the 1970s.They were formed in September, 1973 by Dick Taverne, who had resigned from the Labour Party, after falling out with his Constituency Labour Party over the European Economic Community.He had...

. However, he did not announce his membership of the Social Democratic Party
Social Democratic Party (UK)
The Social Democratic Party was a political party in the United Kingdom that was created on 26 March 1981 and existed until 1988. It was founded by four senior Labour Party 'moderates', dubbed the 'Gang of Four': Roy Jenkins, David Owen, Bill Rodgers and Shirley Williams...

 or SDP for another four years. By that point, his reputation had so declined that Bill Rodgers, who had been Brown's Parliamentary Private Secretary at the DEA and the Foreign Office, described him as "an embarrassment rather than an asset to his old friends who founded the SDP." His brother Ron
Ronald Brown (English politician)
Ronald William Brown was a British Labour Party politician. He was the younger brother of George Brown, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party from 1960 to 1970....

, who had been a Labour MP since 1964, had also joined the party. On 24 December 1982 Brown walked out on his wife of 45 years to set up home with his 35-year old secretary, Maggie Haimes. However, he did not change his 1969 will which gave his estate to Lady George-Brown. As his health deteriorated, he converted from his previous Anglo-Catholic religious beliefs, entering the Roman Catholic church near his death. Suffering cirrhosis of the liver
Cirrhosis is a consequence of chronic liver disease characterized by replacement of liver tissue by fibrosis, scar tissue and regenerative nodules , leading to loss of liver function...

, Lord George-Brown died after a stroke on 2 June 1985, at the home in Truro
Truro is a city and civil parish in Cornwall, England, United Kingdom. The city is the centre for administration, leisure and retail in Cornwall, with a population recorded in the 2001 census of 17,431. Truro urban statistical area, which includes parts of surrounding parishes, has a 2001 census...

 which he shared with Maggie Haimes. He was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium
Golders Green Crematorium
Golders Green Crematorium and Mausoleum was the first crematorium to be opened in London, and one of the oldest crematoria in Britain. The land for the crematorium was purchased in 1900, costing £6,000, and was opened in 1902 by Sir Henry Thompson....

 in London; his ashes are buried under a rose bush in the gardens.

External links

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