Nicholas Hugh "Nick" Brown (born 13 June 1950) is a British Labour Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Newcastle upon Tyne East since 1983. He has served as Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Minister of State for Work and Pensions, Deputy Chief Whip, and was the Government's Chief Whip from October 2008 to May 2010.
1 Early life,
2 Political career,
4 External links,
Brown was born in Hawkhurst, Kent, and brought up in nearby Tunbridge Wells, attending Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys before studying at the University of Manchester. After graduating, he worked in advertising for Procter & Gamble, but in 1978 he moved to be Legal adviser to the Northern Region of the GMBATU, based in Newcastle upon Tyne. In 1980 he was elected to Newcastle City Council, representing Walker ward. His role in the union gave him a role in maximising the union's influence in Labour Party selections.
When Mike Thomas, the sitting Labour MP for Newcastle upon Tyne East, defected to the SDP, Brown was chosen as the new Labour Party candidate for the seat, easily keeping it for Labour in the 1983 general election. He went on to the Labour front bench in 1985 as a spokesman on Legal Affairs; from 1988 he was a Treasury spokesman and from 1994 he shadowed Health.
Originally elected the Commons in the same year as Gordon Brown and Tony Blair he was initially close to both men but over time he became his namesake Brown's staunchest ally, though the two are unrelated. In the 1994 Labour leadership election he acted as Brown's unofficial campaign manager, and according to Brown's biographer Paul Routledge, advised against him pulling out of the contest in Blair's favour.
In 1995 he was appointed Deputy Chief Whip and played a central role in the close Parliament in trying to defeat the Conservatives. After Labour's election victory in 1997, he was appointed Chief Whip, but stayed there only for a year, moving to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in 1998. This move, which followed the publication of the Routledge biography earlier that year, was widely seen as a demotion, and ascribed to his close connection with Brown. Not long after this, he was forced by the News of the World newspaper in 1998 to announce that he is gay. This he did with characteristic good humour, telling an audience of farmers: "It's a lovely day. The sun is out - and so am I."
His tenure at MAFF saw several animal health crises ending with the 2001 foot and mouth crisis. Brown's handling of the outbreak, which some in the media and politics used to attack the government, was criticised, though throughout he maintained the support of the farming and food industries and the veterinary profession. Suggestions that a vaccination strategy should have been practised in preference to the culling of hundreds of thousands of animals, made with the benefit of hindsight, did not help his cause, and he was demoted out to be the Minister of Work, with non-voting Cabinet rank, at the Department for Work and Pensions after the general election of 2001. In June 2003, he was dropped from the Government altogether, receiving the news of his axing by Tony Blair during the course of a party held to mark his 20 years as an MP.
Brown remains closely allied to Gordon Brown. In 2004 he was one of the organisers of a rebellion over the government's proposals for student finance, but hours before the vote announced that he had received concessions from the Government and would now support it. It was suspected that the Chancellor had ordered him to back down, but the affair cost him some credibility. On 29 June 2007 he was announced as Brown's new Deputy Chief Whip and Minister for the North East. Following a government reshuffle, he was returned to his original government position of Government Chief Whip, retaining his position as Minister for the North East.
In 2009, Brown was put in charge of investigating questionable expense claims by Labour MPs. According to The Daily Telegraph, between 2004 and 2008, he himself claimed a total of £87,708 for his constituency home including £18,800 for food. Allowances sought, without submission of receipts, included £200 a month for repairs, £200 a month for service and maintenance and £250 a month for a cleaner.
In 2007-08, Brown's mortgage interest repayments totalled £6,600, but he also claimed a total of £23,068, just £15 below the maximum allowable amount for the year. The claim included £4,800 for food - the maximum allowable amount - £2,880 for repairs and insurance, £2,880 for services, £897.65 for cleaning, £1,640 for phones and £1,810 for utilities. Brown, however, has pointed out that he saved the taxpayer a considerable amount of money by turning down a Government car and driver upon being made Chief Whip, the annual cost of which would have been around £100,000.
In 2001 he was granted the freedom of the City of Newcastle upon Tyne, on the same day as Alan Shearer. Brown is a supporter of the British Humanist Association. On 29 September 2010, newly elected Labour Party leader Ed Miliband asked Brown not to stand for re-election as Opposition Chief Whip due to the need for a "break from the past".
On the 29th January 2010, during the News of the World phone hacking affair, Brown revealed that his landline may have been bugged in an "amateurish attempt" in 1998, around the time of his outing. He was also contacted by police in the West of England in 2003 who told him that they were pursuing a phone-tapping prosecution and he was one of those who may have been targeted. The case collapsed when it reached court and full details of the allegations were never disclosed. Brown said that "Given that it was near Prince Charles' home Highgrove, my assumption was that this might involve the Royal Family. But I was never explicitly told that."