Leading article: The real purpose of this visit was not to praise, but to persuade

Share
Related Topics

When a political leader is running low on friends at home, the last thing he or she wants to do is alienate allies abroad. No doubt that explains why Gordon Brown's second official trip to the United States this week has left such a different impression compared with his first visit last July. At Camp David, nine months ago, the newly installed Prime Minister seemed keen to put as much distance between himself and President Bush as diplomatic politesse allowed.

But this time around, Mr Brown has appeared much keener to ingratiate himself, even going as far to argue that the world owes President Bush "a huge debt of gratitude" for his stance on global terrorism and claiming that Britain stands "shoulder to shoulder" with the present US commander in chief. Such effusive praise inevitably grates back home, especially when applied to this particular President. But what is the substance behind it? Has Mr Brown really signed up to the Bush worldview? Actually, the Prime Minister's speech in Boston yesterday showed that his thinking diverges substantially from that of the 43rd US President.

The theme of Mr Brown's address was reform of the world's political and financial institutions and establishing what he called a "global covenant" for collaborative action. In political terms, this appears to mean reform of the United Nations and the G8 and allowing them to take a lead in dealing with crises. In other words: no more Iraq-style unilateralism. Mr Brown also proposes to widen the World Bank's ambit to include not only development, but environmental protection too. His big idea is a climate change fund to invest in clean energy and sustainable forestry programmes.

This is astute timing, because international co-operation is so manifestly needed to deal with the present turmoil in Western financial markets. Mr Brown spoke earlier this week of the need for the International Monetary Fund to co-ordinate a response to higher credit costs and cajole the banks into making their balance sheets more transparent to regulators. We should not underestimate the implications of all this: it amounts to global supervision and regulation of financial markets.

For a quarter of a century, the trend in international finance has been one of deregulation and less rigorous oversight. The banking sector has argued consistently that it ought to be allowed to regulate its own affairs. The present crisis has shown what happens when that laissez-faire dogma is taken to an extreme. Now, despite the resistance of the bankers, the political momentum is behind greater oversight. Mr Brown is seeking to align that push for greater financial co-operation between nations with greater political co-operation.

What President Bush makes of the specifics of these proposals has not been articulated. And in a sense it does not matter. The President is yesterday's man now; in office but with rapidly diminishing power. What matters is the receptiveness of the next US president, who will take office next January, to Mr Brown's proposals for a new era of global co-operation. Although Mr Brown met the three remaining challengers for the presidency privately this week in Washington, we are unlikely to know the answer to that question until the end of the campaign. But one thing is clear: the idea of working to achieve common goals through the UN and co-operating more readily with international institutions would have been given short shrift by Mr Bush at the height of his power.

The praise heaped on the US President's record this week was gratuitous, but the underlying message from Mr Brown's latest visit to America was, thankfully, very different.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Digital Web Designer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Web Designer is required to join a f...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Business Development Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to develop an ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Middleweight

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's fastest growing full s...

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron has reiterated his pre-election promise to radically improve the NHS  

How can we save the NHS? Rediscover the stiff upper lip

Jeremy Laurance
 

Thanks to Harriet Harman, Labour is holding its own against the Tory legislative assault

Isabel Hardman
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor