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Leading article: Cameron's contentious and unworthy attack

It was graceless of David Cameron to attack Gordon Brown in such personal terms yesterday, ruling him out of a job for which there is not even a vacancy yet. The former Prime Minister has his eyes on the £270,000-a-year post as managing director of the International Monetary Fund, if the incumbent, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, decides to run against Nicolas Sarkozy in next year's French presidential election.

Mr Cameron is under no obligation to back him. And the Prime Minister made a reasonable point when he suggested that the IMF should look eastwards, to China or India, for a suitable candidate. But he could have argued that without indulging in derogatory comments about the former Prime Minister, saying that the IMF needs someone who "understands the dangers of excessive debt, excessive deficit" rather than "someone who says that they don't see a problem". Neither Tony Blair nor Margaret Thatcher ever belittled John Major or Jim Callaghan in such a fashion.

Nor should we be misled into thinking that Mr Cameron was driven by disinterested concern for the best interests of Britain or the IMF. This was low politics. Come the next election, the Conservatives will want people to believe that all the bad things they have experienced under the Coalition was the fault of Mr Brown and his former advisers, Ed Miliband and Ed Balls, while all the good is attributable to the Conservatives. If Mr Brown received recognition from the international community, it would spoil their story.

And the attack on Mr Brown's competence is not just unworthy, but contentious. The rest of the world copied Mr Brown's recapitalisation of the banks during 2008, implying that other governments are less begrudging about his achievements than our Prime Minister. Further, when the previous government announced the spending plans which brought about what Mr Cameron calls our "excessive debt", the Conservatives promised to match Labour's expenditure, pound for pound. So a question arises: if Gordon Brown is apparently not to be trusted with the stewardship of the IMF, can Mr Cameron and George Osborne be trusted with the British economy?