blind_html Fwd: Gordon Brown's Free Fall

  • From: Nimer Jaber <nimerjaber1@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: blind_html@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 08 May 2009 12:26:01 -0600

-------- Original Message --------
Subject:        Gordon Brown's Free Fall
Date:   Fri, 8 May 2009 16:11:09 -0000
From:   Ray T. Mahorney <coffee-craver@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Reply-To:       Blind-chit-chat@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
To:     <blind-chit-chat@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> <>
Gordon Brown's Free Fall
Britain's prime minister may be on his way out.By

It's hard to believe it's been 30 years since Margaret Thatcher became Britain's prime minister.
She is now in declining health and no longer speaks in
public, but if this week's anniversary of Mrs. Thatcher's election proves anything, it's that
mention of her name can still start an argument.

Some honor her as an unwavering champion of common people and simple principles. Others denounce
her as an unbending, heartless ideologue. But virtually
all agree that no American president has had a more reliable foreign ally.

A generation later, facing tremendous international dangers, President Barack Obama could use
such a partner. That's why the unraveling of Gordon Brown's
government and Britain's economic emergency are such bad news for Washington.

Just how poorly are things going for Mr. Brown? His popularity has fallen further and faster
than any prime minister since reliable polling became available
nearly 80 years ago.

Just six weeks ago, the G-20 summit in London provided him the opportunity to play the role of
effective economic crisis manager. But since the event, he's
had to fire a close adviser, Damian McBride, when the press discovered that Mr. McBride had
attempted to smear various members of the opposition with salacious
falsehoods. Mr. Brown's annual budget drew an avalanche of criticism because it raises the
income tax rate for top earners to 50%. He thus broke the Labour
Party's pledge not to raise income taxes. He's also losing control of his parliamentary

On the foreign-policy side, Mr. Brown drew surprisingly little attention at home for his visit
last week to Afghanistan and Pakistan. He won faint domestic
praise for the final British pull-out from Basra in southern Iraq. In fact, pressure is now
growing in London for a 9/11-style commission to study how
and why British troops were sent to Iraq in the first place.

Cameras and microphones now trail Labour Party heavyweights in hopes of capturing a major public
blow against what's left of Mr. Brown's authority. And
polls show that Labour now trails the Conservative Party by 15 to 20 percentage points.

Mr. Brown needn't face national elections for a year, but he will have to endure local and
European Parliament elections in early June -- and his party
will likely suffer blowout losses. Unless Labour sharply outperforms expectations four weeks
from now, the prime minister will face intense pressure to

Will Mr. Brown go down without a fight? Not likely. He waited his turn for a decade as Tony
Blair's chancellor of the exchequer. Perhaps he believes a hoped-for
economic revival over the next year will boost his popularity and provide him his first true

If he is forced to resign later this summer, his most likely immediate successors are Alan
Johnson (the popular health secretary) and Jack Straw (the former
foreign secretary, now justice minister). Either would likely be forced to call early elections,
since the British public -- especially the media -- will
not long accept another unelected prime minister.

If, as expected, the Conservatives return to power following the next elections and David
Cameron becomes prime minister, Mr. Obama will again have a reliable
ally across the Atlantic. In the meantime -- whether Mr. Brown clings to power or a transitional
prime minister emerges to guide Labour -- the U.S.-British
partnership will face a period of frustrating stagnation because both governments are consumed
by political and economic headaches at home.

That's too bad for the foreign-policy interests of both countries. The United Kingdom remains
the world's fifth-largest economy, and London is still its
second-largest financial center. It's a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, one of
three drivers (with Germany and France) of European Union
policy. It's the world's second-largest source of foreign direct investment and its third
largest foreign-aid donor.

In short, Britain matters. Any coordinated solution to problems facing the global economy must
involve British policy makers. Britain's is one of a dwindling
number of governments that has been both willing and able to add troops in Afghanistan, play a
leading role on climate change and other transnational challenges,
and may even take in a few prisoners soon to be released from Guantanamo.

But Britain's political leadership is mightily distracted at the moment. Its public finances are
in rough shape. The 2009 budget deficit appears set to
reach 175 billion pounds -- about 12.5% of the country's GDP. The national debt will likely grow
from 50% to 80% of GDP within the next five years and
could run higher. Total personal debt has increased to about 1.5 trillion pounds. Unemployment
has surpassed two million, and may well reach three million
-- a rate of 10% -- sometime next year. In other words, the next prime minister will inherit
such a mess that Labour's next generation might actually prefer
to let Mr. Cameron's Conservatives try to sort it all out.

Some will say Mrs. Thatcher and Mr. Brown have little in common. But as many British
commentators noted this week, senior officials within Mrs. Thatcher's
party -- not voters -- put an end to her leadership. A generation later, another prime minister
looks increasingly vulnerable to just such an uprising.

Mr. Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group, is co-author of the "The Fat Tail: The Power of
Political Knowledge for Strategic Investing" (Oxford University
Press, 2009).

Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page A11

Copyright 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Ray T. Mahorney

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