'Here, There and Everywhere,' Brown Urges Economic Consensus

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. (Chris Hondros - Getty Images)
  Enlarge Photo    
By Kevin Sullivan and Mary Jordan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, March 26, 2009

LONDON, March 25 -- The British prime minister's Web site these days features an interactive Google map that might as well be called "Where's Gordo?"

Prime Minister Gordon Brown is on a three-continent barnstorming blitz to build international consensus and momentum ahead of next week's pivotal meeting in London of the Group of 20 leading economies.

Tracked by Google's mapmakers and chronicled closely on Twitter and Flickr, Brown has been a whirling dervish trying to assert global leadership on the economic crisis ahead of the summit, where he will host President Obama on his first trip to Europe since taking office.

"His strategy seems to be to pop up here, there and everywhere, looking like he's in charge," said James Naughtie, a BBC Radio host who has written extensively about Brown.

Brown has positioned himself as the European co-pilot to Obama, who penned an op-ed that appeared in at least 30 newspapers around the world Wednesday declaring that the United States was "ready to lead" on the crisis.

In a speech to the European Parliament in France on Tuesday, Brown said he was ready to lead, too. He said he and Obama spoke this week about "a new era of heightened cooperation" in which Europe and the United States would become "an unstoppable progressive partnership to secure the global change the world needs."

Taking that idea on the road and preaching the need for coordinated global response to the financial crisis, Brown buzzed from Strasbourg, France, on Tuesday to New York on Wednesday, and will hit Brasilia and Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Santiago, Chile, before Sunday.

In the past 10 days, Brown has held pre-summit meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso in London and with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris.

"Gordon Brown has been offering active international leadership," European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering said Tuesday, introducing Brown in Strasbourg, adding that "we strongly welcome your determination to play such a role."

Not all European leaders have been as warm toward Brown, suggesting the difficulty of finding a European consensus on the crisis -- let alone a global one.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek of the Czech Republic, which holds the rotating European Union presidency, said Obama's fiscal stimulus plans were the "road to hell." The remark was an implicit rebuke of Brown, who has supported Obama's plans.

In addition to the global financial implications, the political stakes could not be higher for Brown, who, like Obama, has placed an "all in" political bet on reversing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.


CONTINUED     1        >

© 2009 The Washington Post Company