Brown to discuss 'global new deal' with Obama


BRITISH PRIME minister Gordon Brown will this week seek to position himself as President Barack Obama’s partner in “a global new deal” stretching from the villages of Africa to the financial institutions of London and New York.

On the eve of his departure for Washington – where Mr Brown will meet President Obama and address a joint session of Congress – the prime minister spoke of the need to renew “the special relationship” between Britain and the United States in order to meet the “global challenge” of rebuilding financial stability and “a new set of challenges” now facing the world.

Downing Street is delighted that Mr Brown has won the race to be the first European leader to meet the new American president, and the prime minister will use his three days in Washington to develop his agenda for the G20 summit in London in April.

Mr Brown’s opportunity to shine on the international stage is all the more welcome coinciding as it does with renewed speculation about his leadership, and his likely successor should Labour fall to a general election defeat.

Labour’s deputy leader Harriet Harman felt obliged yesterday to dismiss suggestions that she and other colleagues were positioning themselves for a future leadership battle.

Insisting such talk was based on the false idea that Labour could not win the next election, Ms Harman told the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show: “I am very proud to be Gordon Brown’s loyal deputy and that is what I am.” Discussion about a leadership challenge is based on the assumption that we are going to lose the next election. “We are, at the moment, dealing with people’s concerns and that is what our big challenge is. When it comes to the next election, we will be fighting it and fighting to win it.”

With David Cameron’s Conservatives again routinely recording double-digit leads in the opinion polls, the prime minister’s Washington trip and chairmanship of the G20 summit represent perhaps Mr Brown’s best chance to re-engage the British public ahead of this summer’s potentially damaging local and European elections.

While Mr Brown has dismissed recent speculation about his leadership as “gossip”, one sign of Labour’s internal tensions came with a report in yesterday’s Mail on Sunday that Mr Brown might actually sack Ms Harman in a cabinet reshuffle following the European contest in June.

Quoting unnamed critics accusing her of conducting a leadership campaign by “stealth” – adopting “left-wing” positions on issues like bank bonuses and the part-privatisation of the Royal Mail – the newspaper claimed that Mr Brown’s anger at his deputy boiled over at a recent private meeting, with the prime minister demanding: “Who the hell does that woman think she is?”

Maintaining his public focus on the international financial crisis, Mr Brown said yesterday there was “no international partnership in recent history that has served the world better than the special relationship between Britain and the United States”.

Writing in the Sunday Times, Mr Brown said that he believed there was no challenge so great or so difficult it could not be overcome by America, Britain and the rest of the world working together.

“That is why President Obama and I will discuss this week a global new deal, whose impact can stretch from the villages of Africa to reforming the financial institutions of London and New York – and giving security to the hard-working families in every country.”

Mr Brown went on: “It is a global new deal that will lay the foundations not just for a sustainable economic recovery but for a genuinely new era of international partnership in which all countries have a part to play.”

Former cabinet minister Clare Short, meanwhile, has suggested that the Labour government is refusing to release minutes of key cabinet meetings held in the run-up to the Iraq war to cover-up the embarrassing fact that there was no serious discussion of the issue before the invasion was approved.

Ms Short, who resigned as international development secretary after the war, dismissed justice secretary Jack Straw’s suggestion that it was necessary to preserve cabinet confidentiality and robust decision-making.

“The bitter irony is what they are doing is concealing the fact that there was no robust decision-making. “The minutes will reveal there was no real cabinet discussion about the Iraq War. That is the real scandal,” she said.