Were it not for the death of a demonstrator and injuries to police and public, it would be possible to treat the whole G-20 summit with the humour that its theatricality demands. For putting events on the streets of London to one side, this is indeed an occasion for powerful actors to strut their stuff.
The expectation game has been played, the sherpas have marked out the path to the very apex of the summit, the walk-out gambit has been played and declined, the deals have been almost finally cut with only a few billion dollars worth of detail to tap into place, and today the results will be out:
- Financial regulation looks like being strengthened;
- On economic stimulus, the emphasis will fall on implementing already announced packages rather than producing new ones;
- But there will be a boost for the IMF – either to $500 billion or to $750 billion;
- And the IMF will also be given the task of monitoring governments’ fulfilment of their stimulus plans and announcements;
- There will be additional aid for poor countries, though how much is one of the issues reportedly still being argued out;
- And old figures for trade financing will be re-announced.
Likely gaps are in dealing with bad debts in the international banking system as the IMF is calling for, greening the economic recovery and acknowledging the full extent of global risk in the crisis.
A separate thought: it is hardly breaking news that Gordon Brown is unpopular in Britain (more like broken news), widely blamed for City-focused, bubble-reliant policies that took the UK into recession, and deeply distrusted because of it – but has anybody noticed what a good pre-summit he has had?
It is not just the cosying up with Obama at yesterday’s press conference. It is not just the foolish way Sarkozy over-stated his position and threatened a walk-out that would, in whatever circumstances he carried out the threat, make him look silly and wholly lacking in influence. But it somewhat to do with the way that mis-step by Sarkozy left the Franco-German alliance drifting in the breeze, making Angela Merkel look oddly querulous, removing the option of an alternative (non US-UK) axis with the summit. And it is more to do with the way Hu Jintao has waded into the stimulus argument on Brown and Obama’s side.
With Brown having managed to back away from his previous over-identification with a new package of measures for a fresh global economic stimulus, the list of likely outcomes is getting perilously close to his own preferred list.
Summit success for Brown? It may be quite entertaining to watch the Brown-hating headline writers at work tomorrow.