Lloyd Evans

The spectacle gets under way

The spectacle gets under way
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‘Eat Bankers For Breakfast’. At 7 am this morning the great pin-stripe banquet was due to start as protestors gathered outside the London Stock Exchange intent on disrupting the day’s business. After four hours, only a handful of hungry suit-scoffers had gathered under the slogan and their meagre buffet was being supervised by hundreds of idle cops. Meanwhile, the market delivered its verdict on the prandial protest and yesterday’s quiet riot: the FTSE surged through 4000 and the Bank of England’s three-monthly report confirmed that credit conditions were easing and that mortgage approvals were up.

Over at docklands, the Excel Centre had been sealed off and sealed off again. Two separate cordons, several hundred yards apart, ensured that no one with a placard or a clown-mask would get within egg-chucking distance of the G20 leaders as they arrived in their heavy-metal containers. It must be very instructive for Gordon Brown to meet so many elected leaders. Not that instruction seemed to be on his mind yesterday. He watched like a star-struck teenager as the glamorous military tattoo of international power swung into action across London. The decoy helicopters, the nuclear-strike-resistant limos, the twelve-inch thick car-doors, the bags of blood nestling in the titanium-sealed medical boxes, all these rock-star trappings seem to have had an ecstasy-like effect on the Prime Minister and his grin achieved a mad bluish glow of pure contentment. The smirk looked off-message, certainly to Peter Mandelson who duly emerged, in cape and fangs, to turn down the lights and suggest that Gordon was being ‘excessively ambitious’ about the outcome of today’s verbal shuttle-cocks.

This morning the airwaves are crowded with soothsayers and fortune-tellers predicting the contents of the final communiqué. The signs are it’ll be a document of monumental blandness, the kind of crowd-pleasing tosh that might have been lifted from the leader pages of any broadsheet published in the last six months. An end to protectionism, a cap on bankers’ salaries, tougher regulations, more dosh for the IMF and a concerted effort to lay depth-charges in every last remaining tax haven. No one would oppose any of that.

At 11.00 am the Prime Minister formally opened the meeting. Sitting next to his new best friend, Obama, and still irradiated by a power-surge the rest of the world doesn’t feel, Gordon welcomed the delegates to London and invited them to start things off by commenting on Paragraphs 14-17 of the communique. Heavy-touch regulation is back in fashion already. No one, said Gordon, will be allowed to speak for more than five minutes.