Dominique Strauss-Kahn stepped down today from his position as head of the IMF to focus on clearing his name after being charged with sexual offences in a US Court. The Telegraph have already put the boot into any suggestion that Gordon Brown should be the man to replace him.
Jeremy Warner, the economics editor of the Telegraph, led calls last night to oppose Brown’s candidacy. Warner previously admitted to having not read Gordon Brown’s book about the future of global macroeconomic policy, published at the tail end of last year. This is not a crime in itself but undermines his ability to contribute to the debate about the future of global markets. This is Warner’s main argument against Brown:
“A man who has spent his life pursuing “big government” is scarcely likely to rub along well with an administration committed to cutting the state back.”
To suggest firstly that Brown spent his political career pursuing ‘big government’ is a gross over-simplification of his achievements as chancellor; New Labour abandoned many of the traditional Labour economic orthodoxies and displayed flexibility and pragmatism to deliver GDP growth consistently above the Eurozone average between 1997 and 2006 and maintained UK unemployent at a simliar level of consistently below the Eurozone average too.
Furthermore, for Warner to argue that the IMF exists simply to cut back the state shows just how far removed he is from debates about global markets.
The arguments surrounding conditionality and the role of the IMF in structural adjustment loans which decimated many developing economies are at the heart of why the IMF needs to reform. It is fast becoming the new orthodoxy that the problems facing the world today call for greater global economic cooperation, something Brown has made the main argument of his narrative on the next steps for globalisation.
Brown has always seen eradicating poverty, creating jobs and solving the public health and environmental problems facing the world as a major priority. The 10 Downing Street website lists the 2005 Gleneagles agreement to deliver global cooperation on eradicating poverty and climate change as one of Brown’s greatest achievements.
While other New Labour big hitters have used their post-government publications to ditch the dirt on eachother, Brown devoted his book to arguing that only increased global cooperation can deliver increased welfare for the world’s poorest and avoid a decade of low growth and high unemployment. He has argued this case with increasing passion and eloquence in recent months.
Brown’s credentials for the job aside, Cameron and Osborne are displaying vindictiveness in their opposition to his candidacy. Alistair Campbell is right to point out that during the Blair years Labour did much to advocate on the behalf of British politicians for international jobs, whatever their party background. Their posturing on Brown and the IMF job, on the back of the royal wedding invite snub which extended also to Blair, shows the Tories top men to be extremely unstatesman-like. It is perhaps particularly grating that Gordon Brown is infinitely more respected than George Osborne in the field of economics.
We on the left should be leading the defence of Gordon Brown today because to undermine Brown is to undermine Labour’s record in government too. Those in the Labour tribe have called upon the current leadership to do more to stand up for our record in government and not lay the blame for the deficit at the door of increased public spending but at the door of bailing out the banks (necessarily).
Here is our chance to do just that and in the process remind people of Brown’s leadership and vision on the global stage that saw the kind of global economic cooperation the world now needs going forward into the 21st century.