What should Gordon Brown be reading?

Gordon should probably be stock-piling a whole library of books now, given the assumption that he will have a lot of time on his hands after next Thursday.

It’s a shame really, since the last twelve years – most of which when he was Chancellor – has seen a massive growth in the public and private sector book trade, and in reading more generally. The massive increases in public sector investment in schools, universities and the arts (and libraries) has helped to liberalise reading – which, perhaps only with the hindsight brought about by the forthcoming period of cuts and austerity, will we really appreciate.  Meanwhile the private sector book trade will have benefited from the huge growth in the economy up until the recent downturn, including fantastic revenue sales of books via Amazon and more varied consumption through other on-line channels.

But before embarking on a post-6th-May reading marathon, there are one or two books he might want to make time to look at over the course of the next few days.

Shakespeare’s Henry V might help inspire him, as he goes once more “unto the breach“;  or, if he dare, he might turn to Coriolanus – whose capacity to keep fighting despite advice to the contrary, seemed endless:  even when being advised to stand down he remained determined: “do not bid me to dismiss my soldiers or [to] capitulate” (Act 5, Scene 3).

If he wants further inspiration – and informed by the debacles of recent days – he may simply turn to the poem ‘To a Bigot’ by George Essex Evans.  Reading it, he might be re-inspired – noting that there is always a “spark Divine that glows within”, even when all appears lost.

Finally, however, he will probably turn to his own favourite poem (one I have written about previously – here).  But he should aim not to do so before the early hours of 7th May….

Gray’s Elegy in a Country Churchyard – which notes that “perhaps in this neglected spot was laid some heart once pregnant with celestial fire” – might end up, sadly and ironically, being Brown’s own political epitaph.

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