There was a 5% chance that it would fall to the UK to host this particular G20 meeting, but the timing of it plays to Brown’s obsession with being cast as the man who saved the World. As we plunge into depression, I can guarantee you that come next year people will see that it made no difference. It also will not fulfil its primary purpose of getting Brown re-elected.
As I explained yesterday, the final communique will have been agreed some time ago between senior officials (believe me, it used to be my job), so the media’s playing along with the “suspense” of whether agreement will be reached is rubbish. Brown said as much in Downing Street yesterday: “When the communique is released to you tomorrow, you will see that…”
Which doesn’t rule out some grandstanding by politicians looking to win votes at home, and there is a 0.1% chance that will lead someone to refuse to sign it, but don’t hold your breath. It will contain something for every leader to hold up as “their” negotiating victory. The negotiating officials understand that need very well; it will be a beautiful and pointless construct.
Brown’s vanity is enormous. I still have many friends in the FCO,and staff in the UK Mission to the European Union (UKREP Brussels) were horrified to receive an instruction from the FCO to ensure that the situation when Gordon Brown was obliged to hear a speech against him in the European Parliament from MEP Daniel Hannan, could not happen again. No. 10 reasoned, quite unrealistically, that other EU leaders would not want to suffer potential embarassment the same way, so there should be wide support for such a measure.
This was unrealistic because, while there may be some sympathy in the unelected Council of Ministers, it would be the elected European Parliament which would have to make any procedural changes. There is institutional tension between the two bodies, and to convince MEPs that they cannot criticise members of the Council of Europe in their presence, is an impossible task.
So our poor men and women in Brussels duly put out some feelers and found that, not only was there no sympathy, but nobody else thought that anything bad had happened. Wasn’t this democracy? Isn’t parliament for debate?
Of course, the Westminster one isn’t, with Brown only swanning in for half an hour a week for Prime Minister’s questions, half of which are planted and rehearsed, and the whole chaired by an outrageously biased pro-New Labour Speaker.
Anyway, my friends in our mission in Brussels consoled themselves that Prime Ministerial pique would die down, and with the G20 summit keeping Brown frenetically busy in London, the whole thing would be forgotten. But no! As they opened their offices at 8am Brussels time this morning, there was a missive from No 10, demanding to know what progress has been made. An affront to the great Gordon is an affront to the great Gordon. It cannot go unpunished. Even if the Dear Leader is busy saving the world, there is always time for such vital detail.