February 16, 2009


Let me pass on a story about a possible lifeboat for Brown: As Cameron's message about Labour's failings begins to get through, rumours about the future are starting up again (Jackie Ashley, 2/16/09, The Guardian)

Certainly the public mood is swinging from scared to vengeful. The bankers may have said sorry but it doesn't wash. After watching their Commons evidence sessions, I heard a story that sums up their problem. They did indeed have media coaching before the MPs' grilling. One coach asked one of them how much he earned. "I'm afraid I don't know," came the reply. Oh dear.

But I also watched Gordon Brown's evidence to the liaison committee this week and found myself squirming as he refused, again and again, to apologise for any failings on his part. This has become embarrassing. Yes, I know, it's the game being played by Cameron - get him to say sorry, then call on him to go. But among the many who failed, the chancellor, now prime minister, cannot step aside and blame someone else.

He was there throughout. He took credit for the good times. He made friends with the same Scottish bankers now in disgrace. The failed regulatory system was the one he set up. The Tories also went along for the ride. So did much of the media. So did many more, here and around the world. But an honest reflection on what he got wrong, and why, would perhaps be the only thing that could restore some of his reputation right now. People are very angry. They want plain speaking.

This assumes, of course, that Brown is going to stay on. But let me pass on a story doing the rounds among a few senior Labour people at Westminster. I can't say it will happen and I am sure Downing Street would deny it, with a hearty, but not necessarily convincing, laugh. But it comes from quite close to the inner core. It's worth bearing in mind.

It starts with the 2 April London G20 summit. This will be an important moment, with lots of red carpet, as leaders queue to be photographed with President Obama. But as the world stares at full-blown depression, with countries such as China and Germany under huge pressure to do more to revive the global economy, it's a lot more important than that. What will actually come out of it? Well, there's one near-certainty: agreement about the need for a new global financial regulator, whether based inside or outside the IMF.

I'm told the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has a favourite candidate to head this new body - Gordon Brown. She is said to be quietly pushing the idea behind the scenes and getting quite a good reaction from other leaders. Obama can be won over, says my source, and even Sarkozy would be pleased to see the man he's been tussling with off the European stage.

Conservatism is dead, time for the conservatives to resume the Thatcher legacy.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at February 16, 2009 5:51 PM
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