Fraser Nelson

Brown’s on the world stage, but his audience may not listen

Brown's on the world stage, but his audience may not listen
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Brace yourselves. For the next few weeks, we will be witnessing Gordon Brown's attempt to have us believe he is saving the world again, brokering a new global deal for the recession. As Chancellor, he loved to promote global plans. Two are worth mentioning.  One was to persuade the IMF to sell its gold as he had done, when the price was about $275 an ounce (it's now around $950). The other was for governments to adopt one of the the debt concealment tactics invented by investment banks, securitisation, and use it for African aid. His plan: participating nations would jointly take out a multi-billion dollar debt pile, and saddle their successors with repayments for the next 30 years. But they'd spend the cash instantly, taking credit for it. And, crucially, because no one nation was responsible for the bulk of the debt it wouldn't show up on anyone's accounts! He called this the International Finance Facilty (I called it Enron for Africa) and the Americans and Germans kept rejecting it on the grounds that it was so disingenuous. Anyway, suffice to say that Brown has long fantastised about his credentials as a global leader and he will use every trick in the book to put a deal to his name at the G20 summit in April.

There have only been a handful of genuine deals in history: the Marshall Plan, Bretton Woods etc. But no end of pointless summits - G20 and G8, EU etc - each claiming to broker a new deal with communiqués worded, like a horoscope, to mean everything and nothing. These summits are festivals of political vanity, as each host tries to boost his or her stature on the world stage. They opine about African poverty, tuck into a seven-course feast, then go home.

The G20 is normally a finance ministers' s summit, but was bumped up to a Heads of Government summit last time in Washington. Why? Because, then, pretty much each Western head of state was worried about an electoral backlash in their home country for having letting the debt bubble grow so big. It suited all of them to agree, unanimously, that this was the fault of "global forces" and nothing to do with them. Now Obama has been elected, this is different. And Brown's problem is that he copied the Bush administration's worst mistakes. He was a Greenspan adulator, who believed he'd abolished the cycle and believed bubbles were impossible to recognise, or to burst. While the sin was widely copied, no one sinner more than Brown - hence no country other than Iceland has faster-rising unemployment or a faster-shrinking economy.

Obama is ushering in language of the new era, pointing to sins in the old one. Brown won't like to hear that. Our Prime Minister should redden when he hears Obama saying (as he did last week) that he will confront "the schools that are not preparing our children and the mountains of debt that they stand to inherit." When Brown meets Obama next week, I suspect he'll be respectfully advised against the credit-stealing and summit grandstanding that he was so notorious for when Chancellor. Instead, he'll be asked to stump up more troops in Afghanistan. And when Brown addresses Congress? I have a draft of what he should say - in my News of the World column here.

Written byFraser Nelson

Fraser Nelson is the editor of The Spectator. He is also a columnist with The Daily Telegraph, a member of the advisory board of the Centre for Social Justice and the Centre for Policy Studies.

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