Former prime minister Gordon Brown admits he would be a better leader today than he was when he led UK through economic crisis while in office

Friday 25 June 2021

A landmark new series of episodes from the Change Makers podcast explores the ways in which Covid-19 has changed us as a society – starting with former UK prime minister Gordon Brown

The School of Advanced Study (SAS) at the University of London has teamed up with Change Makers to produce a new series of interviews with key public figures on how the pandemic has changed them, and what challenges and benefits it will have for society in the future.

SAS is the UK’s national centre for the promotion and facilitation of humanities research, and has worked to produce the series with Michael Hayman MBE DL, host of Change Makers, co-founder of the campaigns firm Seven Hills and honorary professor of the purpose economy at the University of London.

Over the course of each episode, Michael and his guests will explore how the pandemic has changed us as individuals and as a society, and how our experience of the past 18 months will impact the way we continue to respond into the future.

In one of the first two episodes in the series, released on Friday 25 June, former UK prime minister Gordon Brown admits that he failed to ‘communicate his goals effectively’ when he was leading the country, and that he would make a better PM now, given the benefit of ‘experience and reflection’. He also says that Covid has reminded us as a society that the need for community is what makes us human and the need for neighbours, friends and relatives has never been more important.

Alongside this interview, Michael also speaks with the political journalist, broadcaster and author Mary Ann Sieghart on the release of her new book The Authority Gap. She describes the response of female world leaders, such as Jacinda Ardern and Angela Merkel as ‘bloody brilliant’ during the pandemic. But she adds that even in the modern world, women need the ‘agility of an Olympic athlete gymnast on a beam’ to strike the right balance between being considered confident but not over-confident, while male leaders ‘saunter along the floor’.   

Podcast host Michael Hayman said: ‘This series explores some of the fundamental challenges we face as a society, through the experiences and expertise of some of our most fascinating leaders, writers and activists.

‘We’re delighted to be working with the University of London and the School of Advanced Study on this initiative, which shines a light on the challenges we face as a society as a result of the pandemic. We have all changed, but how we will manage that change in the future will truly be what defines us.’

Professor Jo Fox, pro vice-chancellor (research and engagement) and dean of the School of Advanced Study, said: ‘As we approach new societal challenges, we will need an understanding of the human dimensions of our most pressing issues: threats to democracy, the recovery from the pandemic, including the inequalities it has revealed, personal and community resilience, social justice, climate change, increasing reliance on AI, and the technologisation of traditional human processes.

‘This series explores some of the ways we will need to tackle these as a society, and as individuals. The podcasts provide compelling ideas on the ways we have had to change our lives as a response to the pandemic, and what that means for all of us as individuals and as a society.’

The current series focuses on how Covid-19 has changed us. Guests are set to include:

Gordon Brown, United Nations special envoy for global education and former prime minister and chancellor of the exchequer.

Mary Ann Sieghart, journalist, author (The Authority Gap) and former chief political leader-writer and senior editor of The Times

Kenneth Cukier, New York Times bestselling author on technology and business (Framers: Human Advantage in an Age of Technology and Turmoil and Big Data), senior editor at The Economist

Roly Keating, chief executive of the British Library, and former controller of BBC2 and BBC4.

Cephas Williams, the activist and campaigning founder of the Black British Network and 56 Black Men.

Dr Eliza Filby, generations epert and historian of contemporary values

Professor Jo Fox, pro vice-chancellor (research and engagement) and dean, School of Advanced Study, University of London