Friday, 3 April 2009

The political fall-out from the G20

The battle charge is on for the Prime Minister. Across the news media his performance and achievements at the G20 Summit have astoundingly and rightly lauded. There are some outliers- The Sun went for a Dr Evil front page. It looked- unusually- out of step. The argument seems to be about how big his poll bounce and how long it will last rather than whether there will be one. There was a distinctly nervy tone to a piece about the impact on Brown's popularity on ConservativeHome this morning.

His performance at the post-Summit press conference- which occasionally teetered on the edge of over-confident but never quite crossed the line- was the most in command I have seen him since his very earliest days as Prime Minister. He was completely on top of both the substance and the politics of the Summit and communicated it with awesome clarity. It was only in parsing that into the everyday that he seemed to struggle slightly more. But his message- the 'Washington consensus is now dead'- was a wrecking ball crashing into a much loathed high rise tower. With it, the world economy moved from one era into the next.

Following the NATO summit, this is now his challenge: to convert global leadership into domestic reassurance. It is a task that can't wait. There can now be no let up. Make no mistake, the heat is absolutely on the Leader of the Opposition and his Shadow Chancellor. As early as this weekend, the Prime Minister, if he wants to inflect a likely bounce into new political momentum, needs to now focus on the domestic front. This has two connected elements.

He must first unpick the language of the global summitry and international economics and make plain why what happened in London's docklands yesterday is relevant to each and every household in Britain: it secures their standard of living, helps to protect their jobs, and ensure that their businesses have a future. It also begins the process of protecting them more solidly from future economic disasters. It was about people this Summit and that has to be communicated.

In connection with this, it is now time to forcibly take the battle to the Tories. At every stage of this economic crisis they have underestimated its nature, its severity, fallen short on providing meaningful solutions, and looked dangerously out of their depth. It is only because the focus has not been on them that they have been able to get away with it. That now has to end. Had they been in power it would have been like the early 1980s again. Economic storm would have turned into economic catastrophe. It is not good enough to just simply and continually default back to the same old line about national debt: one that doesn't stack up if you look at international comparisons. Had a combination of rescuing failing banks and fiscal stimulus not been pursued then it is terrifying to think where we would now be economically. It is now time for the Tories to own their economic illiteracy.

Would David Cameron have secured the global deal that was achieved yesterday? Absolutely not. He would have been completely isolated in the discussions. He would be a million miles away from the Obama presidency line of regulate and stimulate. No motobike taxi would have got him anywhere near the new president in time. The distance between them was just too great.

Equally, he will have no influence with european leaders. He will antagonise them with his gesture anti-europeanism. Besides, his party are still de-regulators by default. These two things alone would leave him a distance away from the likes of Chancellor Merkel or President Sarkozy. A deal may have happened despite a Cameron government but it could never happen because of it. It would be left with the decision of going along with a deal negotiated by others or remaining on the outside. Either way, a Cameron government would have no influence and Britain would be left in the cold.

So this is now the moment to drive a new political momentum. His achievements at the G20 Summit were only the start for the Prime Minister. He now has to make that deal relevant and show why the Tories' answers are a complete irrelevance and even a danger.

Post script: This is the last in my G20 themed posts. It's been a great week. A special mention should go to Richard Murphy who I interviewed on Wednesday and who, yesterday, became the first blogger to ask a question at global summit press conference.


Richard Murphy becomes the first independent blogger to ask a question at a major summit. from Podnosh on Vimeo.

It was the good work of G20 Voice that got him there. Sam Graham-Felson, who was the Obama '08 campaign blogger, reported on it for the Huffington Post.

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