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Editor, John Evans

Saturday Ramble: There is nothing he can say that would make me believe him again

Listening to Evan Davis’s futile attempt to interview Gordon Brown on Friday’s Today programme, reminded me of a frantic inventor trying get his robot to perform a series of complicated tasks, while the robot insists on doing one simple thing over and over again.

Brown and Obama in Horseguards Parade
Barack Obama and Gordon Brown in London

Robotic Brown repeated the same wearisome formula too many times for comfort. If the man can’t present a believable argument to the country, what on earth is he doing as Prime Minister?

Compare Barack Obama’s “We’ll do this ourselves, not wait for others to act,” with Brown’s defeatist “Britain will not emerge from recession this year unless there is emergency action in the Far East, America and Europe as well.”

The problem with “global solutions” is that they take an age to negotiate and rarely emerge as anything other than face-saving compromises. Brown’s philosophy is dead in the loch and Britain may be as well if he continues in office.

On Friday, Brown insisted that the present crisis is “completely new territory … What we did not see, nobody saw, was the possibility of market failure.”

Yet we know — from Edmund Conway who witnessed it — that three Bank of England experts warned him in the summer of 2006 that a small blip in the markets could plunge the British banking sector into widespread insolvency. He was Chancellor of the Exchequer then, why didn’t he act?

Such systemic negligence would be a capital offence in any responsive organization, but in our system only the self-serving Labour party or the Queen can sack him. It won’t happen.

David Cameron claimed this week that Brown could be forced to go to the International Monetary Fund for a cash bail out. I don’t believe the IMF would have enough money to make any difference. It’s not £2.5bn we need this time, it may well be £2.5 trillion. Not even the Americans have, or would consider parting with, such a sum right now.

Britain is on its own. Global solutions won’t materialize in the form or the strength necessary, nor is the IMF an easy way out. We only have Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling between us and economic meltdown.

Until now I’ve been uneasy about Barack Obama’s capacity to take this crisis by the scruff of the neck. But his words at least show a willingness to try.

Let’s remind ourselves of them, and wish we had a leader capable of such drive and determination:

“We’ll do this ourselves, not wait for others to act.”

What could Brown do? He could start by taking his former adviser Matthew Taylor’s advice and write off the next election — throw it to the winds, where it’s going anyway. This would give him the freedom and space to slash the grotesquely bloated public sector which he helped to create.

Of the £650bn pot, an emergency £150bn cut would be relatively easy, if painful for some. Overpaid operatives in the sector could be offered the choice between a 25 percent pay cut or redundancy. This would rebalance the public finances and make room for tax cuts.

Brown built this empire, let him now dismantle it for this country’s sake.

I’ve waited a long time for Brown to live up to the Britishness he idly claims for himself. Here’s how:

“We’ll do this ourselves, not wait for others to act.”

John Evans

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