It is an achievement for Gordon Brown to be the first European leader to visit the Obama White House. The invitation to the Prime Minister to address a joint session of Congress next week is also impressive. One imagines that these scenes of Brown on the world stage will, at least temporarily, help his ratings at home.
But Brown appears to be hoping for much more from that from the visit. As Tom Baldwin writes in The Times today:
“While Mr Brown does not expect any immediate improvement in his domestic fortunes, a seasoned party strategist said that the trip represented his “best — if not last — chance” of holding power at an election next year.”
I struggle to see what Brown and Obama could announce, or set in motion, that would transform Brown’s popularity here in Britain. The topics they are most likely to address—international financial regulation, the international institutional architecture and the like—are hardly ones that are going to excite voters.
One Downing Street aide tells Baldwin that the summit offers the chance to offer a common stand against the “forces of global conservatism”. But Obama’s temperamental caution and the knowledge that he’ll probably be dealing with Prime Minister Cameron 18 months from now mitigates against much tub-thumping. Brown will probably get a boost from the meeting but not a lifeline.