On the eve of the UK budget statement, the International Monetary Fund today estimated the cost to the British government and taxpayer of bailing out British banks to be £200 billion. That’s not how much we’re under-writing, guaranteeing or spinning. It’s money that we will have to actually pay out. Except, no it’s not. There’s no point giving you the link to the IMF web-site so you can see the fancy graph because they’ve, er, well, anyway it’s not there anymore. They took it down. It was wrong. Oops. Continue reading
Thursday’s G-20 summit communique was followed by an immediate hailstorm of judgements. The term “new world order” has been used more than once, which in principle is not out of order when the leaders of countries responsible for 90 per cent of world output are gathered together, and you know there is some kind of success when major world leaders queue up to claim the credit. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
Every significant political moment generates a bottle of expectation. As it looms up and unfolds, the news media and commentators start rushing to judge how far the bottle has been filled by actual achievement. The G-20 – the world’s 19 richest states, plus the EU, the IMF, World Bank and a couple of other financial institutions – meet on Thursday 2 April in London. In full anticipation that the half-full/half-empty metaphor will be used to excess over the next few days, what are reasonable expectations this time? Continue reading
Barack Obama comes to London this week – the heads of 20 other governments do too because G-20 has suddenly grown into G-22 but of course it’s Obama who sets the pulse racing. Everybody knows his host, Gordon Brown, needs the G-20 to be an all-out success; anything less – mere solid achievement, for example – will be spun as failure by the UK government’s army of critics. But is Obama in a similar situation?
So Gordon Brown went to Strasbourg and told the European Parliament that the EU is uniquely placed to provide world leadership in the economic crisis. Is this the Gordon Brown who deliberately avoided EU ministerial meetings and designed impassable tests the UK economy had to pass if he was to let it join the Euro? Why the change? Continue reading
It looks like there will be some serious demonstrations to welcome the G-20 summiteers to London on 2 April. Protests will reflect anger at the human costs of the recession and a conviction (or hope) that the system has not only failed many ordinary people but is failing full stop. And there will be a lot of sympathy for the protests because it is hard to see the G-20 straightforwardly addressing the big problems. There are four in particular that could do with high-level attention. Continue reading