Former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown was left blind in one eye as a result of a rugby kick to the head in his teens. At the time, Brown spent months in hospital with patches over both eyes, not knowing if he would ever see again. The question of his eyesight and how it affected him in his official capacities has shadowed him ever since. In addition, during his third year as Prime Minister, Brown suffered two retinal tears in his healthy eye, fuelling further media speculation about whether or not he might have to stand down on grounds of ill health.
In his memoir My Life, Our Times, Brown writes “When I woke up in Downing Street one Monday in September (2009), I knew something was very wrong. My vision was foggy.” Despite not being able to see properly, Brown carried on with his duties and visited the Hackney City Academy delivering a speech on education. Brown reveals he did all he could to disguise the fact that he could see very little - discarding the prepared notes and speaking off script. Straight afterwards, he was driven to an eye examination at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London. In the end, Brown’s ophthalmologist decided not to operate, and the retina has, according to the BBC, held to this day.
Brown is not the first politician to reach the senior ranks of British politics after overcoming serious sensory health issues: David Blunkett’s blindness did not stop him becoming home secretary, while cabinet member Jack Straw is deaf in one ear as the result of a bomb exploding near him as a young man.