Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

British prime minister hailed as world financial hero

Having seen his bailout of the British banking system widely emulated, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown now would like to rebuild the entire world economic order.

Associated Press

Having seen his bailout of the British banking system widely emulated, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown now would like to rebuild the entire world economic order.

LONDON — Two weeks ago, the best thing that was said about British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was that he might be persuaded to resign before his tepid and inarticulate leadership brought the Labor Party to a decimating defeat at the hands of the Tories.

Now he is considered the most influential leader in the world, and possibly the most admired.

The French newspaper Le Monde called the normally morose Scot — who has suddenly taken up the habit of smiling — a "European superhero." Its conservative competitor Figaro called him the world's greatest financial mind, and Swedish media have taken to calling him "Flash Gordon."

His bailout of the British banking system through a taxpayer buyout of major banks has been imitated by a dozen other countries, including the United States, which invested $250-billion in banks last week. While taxpayers may be less happy when the full cost of these bailouts hits their tax bills, and it is not yet certain that the strategy has worked, most observers agree he has staved off a full-blown depression.

Brown, a man whose obsessive devotion to the minutiae of financial management has been a source of ridicule, is getting all the credit. He said he wants to take this triumph to a new stage by rebuilding the entire world economic order with the launch of new institutions to replace those that have regulated world finance since the Bretton Woods conference launched the modern financial system in 1944.

"We are in the first financial crisis of the new global age," he said. "We need to recognize that if risks are globalized, then responsibilities have to be globalized as well. … What we are asking is that we set up a new international financial architecture for the global age."

He proposed not only major reforms to the International Monetary Fund and the G7 group of industrialized nations so they can respond better to global capital flows and crises, but a new set of institutions and regulations designed to replace national finance-regulation bodies in dozens of countries with a fully international system.

Little more than a week ago, such an idea would have been laughable, especially from Gordon Brown, a left-wing leader in a world dominated by conservatives. But analysts feel that he has become so influential that he may well end up accomplishing at least part of his huge goal.

"I myself find it kind of jaw-dropping: Gordon Brown has become the man who saved the world banking system, and now he might become the man who redesigned the international financial system," said Will Hutton, an economist whose work has influenced Brown's Labor Party since 1997. "Who would have dreamed of it?"

Brown also won begrudging praise from David Cameron, the leader of the opposition Conservatives, who said he fully supported the bailout program, and from President Bush, whose officials have eagerly adopted it. And Paul Krugman, the academic and writer who was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics this week, has devoted himself to lavish praise of Brown's new ideas.

Brown has been proposing major reforms to the world's finance institutions for years. But now he appears to have the world's ear, starting with meetings this week in Brussels between leaders of European Union countries.

"It is not European but global measures that are needed," he said.

At home, there are signs that Brown's new status may be short-lived. While he has pulled his party to only 10 points behind the Tories in polls — the best figures in a year — there are looming signs of hard times in Britain. House prices in London are down 25 percent over last year, inflation rose to a 16-year high of 5.2 percent last month, and unemployment is growing fast.

For the moment, he appears happy to bask in this surprising reversal of fortunes. "I find it amazing that people are suddenly so interested in my personal fate," he said. "I think you should look at what they were saying about me four weeks ago."

British prime minister hailed as world financial hero 10/18/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 4:11pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Review: Mumford and Sons shower Amalie Arena with love in euphoric Tampa debut


    There are releases, and then there are releases. And minutes into their concert Wednesday at Amalie Arena, Mumford and Sons gave Tampa the latter.

    Mumford and Sons performed at Tampa's Amalie Arena on Sept. 20, 2017.
  2. FEMA to open disaster recovery center in Riverview


    The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it will open a disaster recovery center Thursday in Riverview for Hillsborough County residents impacted by Hurricane Irma.

  3. Life sentence for man convicted in killing of brother of Bucs' Kwon Alexander


    An Alabama man who shot and killed the 17-year-old brother of Bucs linebacker Kwon Alexander in 2015 was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday, the Anniston (Ala.) Star reported.

  4. Remember him? Numbers prove Ben Zobrist is one of greatest Rays of all time

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The first foray back to the Trop by the best manager the Rays have had obscured the second return visit by arguably the second-best player in franchise history.


    Chicago Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist (18) grounds into a double play to end the top of the third inning of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017.
  5. GOP's new repeal bill would likely leave millions more uninsured, analyses suggest


    WASHINGTON — The latest Republican bid to roll back the Affordable Care Act would likely leave millions of currently insured Americans without health coverage in the coming decades, and strip benefits and protections from millions more, a growing number of independent studies suggest.

    Vice President Mike Pence listens as President Donald Trump talks to reporters about the Graham-Cassidy health care bill during a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi at the Palace Hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, in New York. [Evan Vucci | Associated Press]