Is the G20 a lose-lose for Gordon?

Is the G20 a lose-lose for Gordon?

Will the media even contemplate a success?

Reading through the coverage a couple of weeks ago, and there was still some talk that a successful G20 summit in London – with President Obama appearing next to the Prime Minister on our shores – might provide the filip necessary for Labour to contemplate a Summer 2009 election.

That seems a remote, if not faintly absurd, notion now. The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman lashed out at the lobby for setting unrealistic expectations of the summit, and rebuked journalists who were saying that an agreement on a global response to the crisis would be the measure of the success or failure of the summit.

Whilst also seeking to temper expectations, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was forced to strike a conciliatory tone over news of ‘rifts’ in the transatlantic alliance, which will not have been helped by a leaked Foreign Office memo that essentially split the G20 into two tiers of influence, with Australia and Russia not included in the top tier.

    The danger is that the media suddenly seem particularly hostile about this initiative, and that they will not let Brown win, however the summit turns out. The stories of rifts and disunity only make the summit seem like a failure in the PM’s own backgarded, but the positive spin designed to paper over such cracks only feeds into the excessive expectation.

    Short of agreeing global accounting standards, with a co-ordinated global stimulus package, I cannot see how the PM will come out of this summit in better shape than when he went in. It will either be derided as a failure from the outset, or if given any sort of a chance, it cannot possibly live up to expectations.

We talk plenty about the media narrative on – this occasion seems to encapsulate the problems in which Labour find themselves. Even in a case where they have not yet done anything wrong, there is no way that they will be given any credit unless they perform the extraordinary.

I was talking to a friend who works in Government Relations for a major corporation the other day, and she said the view of her profession was that the final stages were upon us: a year or so ago, the corporates suddenly started to realise that they had better build relationships with the Conservatives, in case of a new government. Over the last year, that shift in strategy had matured to the point that it was now rare, if not frowned upon, to expend resources in an attempt to develop or perpetuate relationships with the Labour government.

Anecdote is not, as we all know, the singular of data, but industry (albeit a lagging indicator) risks significant money based on its political relationships with government. As political punters, we must acknowledge the weight of bets now being placed on a Conservative victory next time. What has changed since the end of the second Brown bounce is not that Labour are in a worse position, but that there seems to be no-one interested in talking about ways back to popularity.

The resignation has set in – the press can smell it, and business can smell it. Neither of them is interested in seeing their bets reversed. It would not be impossible for Brown to bounce back once more – but should he do so, it will be in spite of the media narrative, rather than because of it.


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