Next week could change the economic direction of travel of the world economy, or could involve a lot of political gloss, endless photo-opportunities with Obama and lofty but unrealistic aspirations and not a lot else. Two articles in the Observer sum these opposing views up.
Will Hutton as usual has a glint in his eye (not only because of his mug-shot) and is very optimistic about the week ahead. He welcomes rather than fears the popular protests, and believes this is part of the unstoppable momentum that will project the politicians forward toward momentous decisions. He does state that breaking Fred Goodwin’s windows was wrong, but qualifies that with a ‘But’ to start the next sentence. His anger against bankers and the bonus culture is palpable and he is all in favour of people protest if it puts pressure on politicians to be bold.
Hutton believes the G20 could be the most significant economic summit since 1944 and will ‘...extraordinarily...’ regulate hedge-funds, bonuses and tax havens. There will be general agreement that governments must support banks and policy must stimulate demand within the economy. As you read the article, you can almost hear Hutton’s breathless enthusiasm: Keynesian theory is back in practice! and all the cynics will be proven wrong. To be fair he does make one or two realistic qualifications, but the thrust of the article is optimistic in the extreme. After reading it my sunny disposition (see my previous blog) became even brighter.
However, over the page is just one of the cynical voices Hutton dismisses. (Perhaps I am being a little unfair because Andrew Rawnsley is looking at the G20 through political eyes rather than the economic perspective of Will Hutton). I was interested that Rawnsley explained why the G20 has now supplanted the G8, because I was getting confused with all these G summits. According to Rawnsley, it’s down to Brown seeing that he could create a link between saving the world economy and saving his own political skin. In other words, it’s in Brown’s interests to make the summit a huge political event, despite the fact that the G20 is attended by finance ministers and advisors rather than global leaders. But, rather like the teenage party where the guest list gets out of hand, Rawnsley believes Brown is now concerned that he has created such high expectations that people will be disappointed.
Regarding civil disobedience, I think next week will have some ugly clashes. Unlike countries such as France, there has not yet been any outlet in Britain for the frustration over the economic crisis. Furthermore, many other protest groups are coming together, so this may turn into an outpouring of dissatisfaction and unrest. I am not sure how the Government will react to this impending situation: obviously they will speak out very strongly against violence if and when it happens, but they, just like Will Hutton (see above), may qualify their words. Their problem is that it has been politically convenient in the last month to divert attention away from the political decisions that made this situation possible and instead to attack the bankers, with emotive words such as ‘outrageous’ and ‘appalling’. If politicians have legitimized anger, what can they say when protestors express this in violent terms?
Let’s see what happens.
P.S. On reading this following my last blog an hour ago you might guess I spent Sunday in the company of The Observer (scattered around the bed-room) and my word-processor. You might even guess my mother in law was in my flat. I really can’t comment...