Gordon Brown's hopes of becoming head of the International Monetary Fund are fading as he struggles to win support at home and abroad.
David Cameron took the unusual step of voicing publicly his opposition to Mr Brown's attempt to succeed Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who is expected to run as the Socialist candidate for French president next year.
Mr Cameron does not have the power to veto Mr Brown, who would not have to be nominated by his own country. Allies say he could yet land the £270,000-a-year post as the IMF's managing director by wooing economies such as China, India, Brazil and Russia, who are likely to gain more influence on global bodies such as the IMF.
However, not enjoying the support of his home nation would be a setback for Mr Brown but a bigger obstacle, diplomats said yesterday, is that he has not yet won the backing of the United States or Germany.
Mr Brown has lobbied Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, for his support. But there is speculation that Christine Lagarde, the French Finance Minister, may be a candidate for the IMF post. Traditionally the post of World Bank head goes to an American and the IMF to a European, although that could change under reforms to boost the clout of emerging nations.
Other names in the IMF frame include Mario Draghi, governor of the Bank of Italy; Angel Gurria, a former Mexican finance minister; Montek Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of India's planning commission; Trevor Manuel, a former South African finance minister and Kermal Dervi, the Turkish former head of the United Nations Development Programme.
Mr Cameron said his predecessor was not the "most appropriate person" to lead the IMF because he would not admit that Britain had a "debt problem". Asked whether the Coalition would oppose Mr Brown, Mr Cameron told BBC Radio 4: "I haven't spent a huge amount of time thinking about this but it does seem to me that, if you have someone who didn't think we had a debt problem in the UK when we self-evidently do have a debt problem, then they might not be the most appropriate person to work out whether other countries around the world have debt and deficit problems."
The Prime Minister suggested the IMF should look to "another part of the world" for its next leader in order to increase its global standing. "If you think about the general principle, you've got the rise of India and China and South Asia, a shift in the world's focus, and it may well be the time for the IMF to start thinking about that shift in focus," he said. "Above all what matters is: is the person running the IMF someone who understands the dangers of excessive debt, excessive deficit? And it really must be someone who gets that rather than someone who says they don't see a problem."
Ed Miliband accused Mr Cameron of "jumping the gun", saying: "To rule someone out before the vacancy has arisen seems to be going some – even for him." David Blanchflower, a former member of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee, accused Mr Cameron of not acting like a statesman and said it would be good for Britain if Mr Brown held the office.Reuse content