Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Obama's Europe Trip is About More Than Drinking Guinness

What a marketing man's dream this picture is. I'm sure the Guinness guy who does this, regrets Her Maj declined the offer when visiting the brewery, as did, reluctantly, the no doubt more bibulous Prince Phillip. The Oirish bit of Obama's journey has been a bit of fun but it was more than that. Over 36 million Americans claim Irish lineage and in an election year, tickling their political taste buds with visions of him enjoying the black stuff will have firmed up their votes nicely. The same goes for the Poles, a neglected demographic by US politicos- hence his final destination for this current tour of Europe.

Why Europe and not Asia to where the focus of his foreign policy has shifted? Easy, Obama, despite his efforts to fulfill his election promises, has not done too well, especially regarding the economy. His satisfaction rating at home hovers around 50%- not high enough to inspire too much confidence in his re-election team. But in Europe, we love him; his popularity ratings soar to 70%, ensuring huge crowds will flock to see him and provide wonderful news footage back home.

His visit with Cameron won't be all bonding and syrupy speeches though; he has tough topics to discuss. Will he, as some predict, give the green light to UK and France equipping Libyan rebels to have a chance of toppling the stubborn Gadaffi? We'll see. No doubt he'll try to encourage European nations to step up and contribute a bit more to the Afghanistan war; few of them, apart from us, seem inclined to do so.

And I daresay he'll also give the nod to Christine Lagarde's candidacy to replace the woman chasing Dominique Strauss-Kahn at the IMF. That Cameron should do his best to veto Gordon Brown's chances of getting the job- when he is enormously experienced and respected within such circles, exposes the fact that under that smooth exterior there is much calculation and precious little magnanimity.

OK, I admit I hate Gordon Brown and that doubtless colours my judgement. But the first instant I heard Lagarde was in the running, I thought not only was it a sensible idea, but she would be a brilliant appointment.

Patient, clever, careful, polite, a polyglot (I wouldn't know she was French just by listening to her) and an internationalist, who has run the French economy with far greater distinction than any equivalent Briton can boast of our own economy, she is one impressive individual. To be sure, there is a bit of a question mark over some of her current political/business dealings, but no more so than for most other potential candidates (and Brown doesn't exactly have a perfect regard in that regard either).

Brown, on the other hand, is arrogant, aggressive and so far as anyone has ever determined speaks only one language really well. Moreover, he left us with a debt a fifth larger than he started with, despite presiding over the longest period of sustained growth in our history.

Perhaps he is 'respected' in such circles - but I personally think he is not only unqualified for the post by character and track record, but is left trailing in Lagarde's wake in terms of training and ability.
Take a look at Larry Elliott's article in Guardian yesterday and you'll see the case for Gordon is not a weak one. I too dislike the man and see him as over-rated, especially by himself, but Elliott points out the ten years he spent chairing a key committee for IMF and his key role in 2008 when he moved swiftly to reflate the banks and save them for UK at least.
You should really try to move on from clumsy attempts to rehabilitate the Clunking Fist. Take a look at Jonathan Powell's account of Gordon Brown's behaviour in Downing Street. Even allowing for the fact that the author is an unreconstructed Bliarite, if only a fraction of things happened the way he describes, Brown simply wasn't up to the job. Of course, there's also the small matter of how Gordo presided over a reckless credit bubble and helped turn the crunch that followed from a banking crisis into a sovereign debt problem. Perhaps he might now concentrate on "getting on with the job" of representing his constituents back in Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (twinned with Zimbabwe & Congo) ?

Kind regards
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