Wednesday, 28 October 2009

The Embarrassing Irrelevance of Brown and New Labour

Brown's grandiloquence and silly claims on the recession are much more damaging for our country when looked at from Berlin. Repeatedly questions were asked on whether he had really said he had saved the world, had really claimed to have unique technical and intellectual economic insight that had enabled him to show the international economic community what was to be done, was really to go to the EU meetings at the end of this week to make proposals as to how Germany should conduct its economic and financial policies. For members of the German politico/academic/technical advisor class to be even posing such queries is astonishing. Courtesy, to office and extended to the individual occupying the office, is the watchword of German officialdom; they do not do needle, sneer, insinuation, put down. So asking was with serious intent, not smear by association.

Answering demanded the same standards and considerable care.

'Brown's barking,' would not have done. Even to have produced chapter and verse on barking manifestations would have produced intense embarrassment that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom should indulge in such inappropriate behaviour; embarrassment for the man, and concern that notions of the office might need extensive revision.

The best way to communicate the truth convincingly and acceptably seemed to be to start from familiar ground - the German (and the European) economy and what it faced in building an economic model for cohesive growth, post crisis. They could tell Angels comfortably about that - that's what they were there to discuss after all; and the 'what is good for Germany, is good ' is an intuitive stance for Germans. Then, as each aspect of this central theme was considered, the response that Brown and his henchmen were proposing could be set next to it.

It was a revelatory if horrid journey, particularly for the social democrats who viewed the Labour party as their natural associate, in how to act in response to the crisis and who to blame for what had happened.

The Europeans put emphasis on European rather than global institutions; the statistics coming from the EBRD as opposed to the IMF offer 'small but non negligible differences in the two sets of forecasts ', with sometimes lower falls in growth rates but slower recovery, and sometimes even worse falls and slower recovery offered by the IMF forecasters than by the EBRD.

The 'need to change its [european] growth model - away from reliance on easy finance and commodities, and towards the development of domestic financial markets, strong institutions and a diversified production base' (EBRD president Thomas Mirow, quoted from the FT September 2009) fits the German model, but not Brown's global rhetoric. The Europeans regretted the slowing down of convergence that had accompanied the Union enlargement, creating out of the crisis a reinforced heterogeneity of national performances within the EU.

An international stability pact, fiscal and monetary co-ordination, sustainability of the path chosen, exit strategies, ECB or IMF as lender of last resort - (problems for either but the ECB at least leaves national Central Banks to act to provide liquidity for their own national banks - hard to identify sometimes, but by and large, within central banks' powers - and capable of providing discretionary and informal interventions); at every turn the Brown regime's policy was at odds with a europeanist solution and designed for a meglomaniac vision of world governance.

Whatever might be the case about Brown's mental status, his inapproriate ideas (and policies) on economics and finance were fully pointed up in their rejection of a European and, more narrowly but most importantly, German stance.

Last weekend, too, the hotel was almost taken over by CDU delegates from all over Germany come to Berlin for the announcements on the newly-elected German government and the policies to be pursued. Getting to the lifts or even breakfast without being on the telly became an enterprise as television cameras portrayed talking heads from the coalition discussing tens of billions of Euros of tax cuts, new partnerships with Russia, the maintenance of a decent social welfare and health system even if there was to be a separate budget for extraordinary calls on welfare services. Nothing could have been more remote, more at odds, with everything Brown and his banana-waving Foreign Secretary stand for.

The English media may be bigging-up Brown and Blair's role and importance in Europe, but the impression gained on the spot was of irrelevance, dismissal, total isolation and, from social democrats, distress at the loss of a once important ally just as their star wanes across Europe.


Nick Drew said...

thanks for the despatch HG

Odin's Raven said...

Who is really running the EU? What are their intentions? Are French and German politicians as irrelevant as the British ones are becoming? Is it controlled by some communist civil servants and journalists - Polytechniciens, Frankfort School weirdos?