Your book Broonland traces the political trajectory of Gordon Brown. You first met him in the mid-1970s, didn’t you?
He worked part-time for the Open University and I worked in the history department. But I really got to know him in autumn 1978, when I moved to the Institute for Advanced Studies at Edinburgh University. Brown and I came together when we were running the Lothian Labour campaign for a Yes vote in the 1979 referendum on the Scotland Act. He emerged from that campaign with very great credit, whereas the rest of the Labour Party was nowhere. I suspect that out of that came a degree of disillusionment on his part with the party. The guys who worked hardest were the Communists – the NUM vice-president Mick McGahey, people like that. The Communists were dogmatic, but they were honest! These are the people that Lawrence Daly [the Scottish miners’ leader at whose funeral last year Brown read the eulogy] came from. And don’t forget that quite a few contributions to The Red Paper on Scotland, edited by Brown, came from the Communist Party. Brown had a degree of trust in these guys that he didn’t have either in the machine politicians of west central Scotland or in the Trots.
Talking of Trots, what was Brown’s relationship with the various Trotskyist entryist groups in the Labour Party in the early 1980s?
He always seemed to me to be rather detached from all that. I think Alistair Darling was more involved in the hard left in Edinburgh, strange though it may seem. Instead, Brown assembled around him a group of people who weren’t exactly apolitical – people like Wilf Stevenson and Alastair Moffat – but who had experience of business and cultural politics. They were people he could relax with and who were also quite successful professionally, not utterly obsessed with politics.
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