Courage: Eight portraits
Bloomsbury, $49.95 hb, 274 pp
It is usually sports fans and politicians who are uncharitably accused of being biased. The new British prime minister, Gordon Brown, is literally one-eyed. He was blinded in both eyes in his youth as a result of an accident playing rugby. Part of the treatment for his blindness required him to lie still in a darkened room for six months. It half worked, and he recovered his sight in one eye. Asked about this experience some years later, Brown said that he had felt ashamed, lying there doing nothing, when the only thing he had wrong with him was that he had lost his sight. This sounds Scottish Presbyterian (which he was) and stoical, which he must be to have survived eleven years as heir apparent to the ebullient Tony Blair. Brown and his predecessor are very different kinds of men. The Conservative MP Boris Johnson captured some of these differences in an article in the Spectator, in which he referred to Blair’s humour and ‘passion with a sense of optimism’. With the arrival of Gordon Brown, ‘a gloomy Scotch mist has descended on Westminster’.