What the PM should say to Congress

I congratulate the Democrats on their sweeping victories here in Congress. I congratulate your new President on his superb campaign. We all recognise the significance and symbolism of his victory. His arrival in the White House marks the final success of the civil rights campaigns that started decades ago.

Thirty years ago my country first elected a woman Prime Minister. I accorded her the respect of opposing her every inch of the way, as we disagreed about many political issues. Now she has been safely retired for 19 years I can say that her three victories showed that there is no glass ceiling in UK politics for an extraordinary woman. Margaret Thatcher was well known and much loved here in the USA. In her day there was a special relationship with your President Reagan. More recently my colleague and predecessor, Tony Blair, had a great understanding with President Bush.

We meet today against a grim background for our two great countries. Once again we find ourselves together in adversity.

I do not come here to claim a headline that there is automatically a “special relationship” between us. Like all long term relationships, our relationship will mean more or less as needs arise and as people and circumstances change. If we want it to be special both sides have to work at it being special.

If we wish to tackle the current crises of the world together, I and my country are willing to help. We do have an important shared history and set of beliefs to draw on.

Your new President has referred to the relatively brief time in our common history when we disagreed violently. The success of the US in winning its right to independence and democratic self government should no longer give us cause for coolness. You, after all, won. You can be magnanimous and happy in your victory. For our part, we have long taken the view that the Americans were right. We too are proud of the way the American revolution became the ultimate act of free born Englishmen who needed to travel to a new and freer land to create their great society. The tradition of the English settlers here who helped pioneer the revolution also became the winning force in UK politics, as the UK itself widened the franchise and championed democracy.

There are two mighty problems which today confront us both. Yesterday’s dreadful attack on the Sri Lanka cricket team in Pakistan reminds us just how much more there is to be done to help stabilise the wider Middle East. I support your President when he says that more must now be done by diplomacy and less by military means. The UK has not been unwilling to assist the US in her military actions since the horrors of 9/11. Today I ask that we reappraise the position in Afghanistan, consult more widely in the region, and do not ask our troops to do the impossible. Afghanistan needs political reinforcement more than it needs military reinforcement.

Foremost in many minds in both our countries is the economic decline. The US and the UK made similar mistakes. Our regulators did not rein in the banks when they should. Our monetary authorities did not set interest rates to encourage stability. In recent months we have been trying similar policies. We have slashed interest rates, expanded budget deficits, and offered huge sums of financial support to financial institutions in trouble. So far none of this has arrested the sharp decline in output and jobs.

I know as we meet today there is a big political divide over how to respond. The Republicans, along with some Conservatives in my country, are warning that we should not borrow too much, and should not leave future generations with large tax bills to pay off the debts. I have reflected long and hard in private on this. Let me surprise you. I agree with them that there are limits to how much a state can and should borrow, even in times like this. That limit has to be set below the limit of borrowing that markets will readily accept. We need to be careful. We will not save the world if we undermine the state’s credit standing.

This is not the time or place to be precise about the limits. It may well be that conservatives and I will never agree about the prudent limit anyway. What should unite us are these principles:

You cannot get out of a crisis of overborrowing by borrowing too much
You should not cut the payments to those who have been hurt by the economic cycle. Deficits do rise naturally in a recession.
You cannot solve the bad debt problem by transferring them from the private to the public sector. We now need to say to the banks and other financial institutions that have received state aid, sort yourselves out and don’t ask for more money

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  1. David b
    Posted March 4, 2009 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    The earlier blog entry from the CEO was funnier.

    While its OK to have a laugh now and then, please desist from the temptation to keep doing it. Eventually you become the Mash, where they get it wickedly funny sometimes, but not often.

    This special relationship with the US is past its sell by date anyway. We share a language, and they kill our soldiers from time to time, but its a fairly one way sort of specialness. We’d maybe benefit more by forgetting about it.

  2. Ian Jones
    Posted March 4, 2009 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    “You cannot solve the bad debt problem by transferring them from the private to the public sector.”

    You can if you own the rights to print the worlds only global reserve currency.

    We may have started off from the same point but our actions from now on will not be the same no matter how much Brown pretends to be the world leader!

    • Lola
      Posted March 4, 2009 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

      It might be that the dollar is being supplanted by Gold in that role

  3. Stewart Knight
    Posted March 4, 2009 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    That’s what he should say, but what he will probably say in amongst the masses of statistics, assumption, sycophancy and hubris will be something like, “…and it was all your fault, and if you had listened to me ten years ago we could have avoided this crisis, but now if you follow my lead and give me the headlines I will save you and the world…”

  4. Demetrius
    Posted March 4, 2009 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    You missed out the las paragraph. “And now, if you will all excuse me, I must just nip across to Nassau for an urgent meeting with my personal financial advisers.”

  5. mikestallard
    Posted March 4, 2009 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    According to Labour List, Mr Brown has been very concerned that this important speech goes off well. Other blogs talk of his getting up very early in the morning to ask for advice and some even suggest that he sees this as the most important speech of his life. There have also, we are told, been temper tantrums too.
    What I like about your speech is that it is not just having his tummy tickled. You make the point about Afghanistan, accept that there have been some mistakes and do not accept the idea of ridiculous borrowing.
    It will be really interesting to see how the real thing compares with this.

  6. Lola
    Posted March 4, 2009 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    “We now need to say to the banks and other financial institutions that have received state aid, sort yourselves out and don’t ask for more money”..and be advised that we will not permit you to abuse your cartel power and rebuild your balance sheets at the expense of theirs.

  7. Lola
    Posted March 4, 2009 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    “We now need to say to the banks and other financial institutions that have received state aid, sort yourselves out and don’t ask for more money”..and be advised that we will not permit you to abuse your cartel power and rebuild your balance sheets at the expense of your customers balance sheets.

    (Modified version – please delete earlier badly phrased version. Thank you)

  8. joe
    Posted March 4, 2009 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Given the stories being circulated on the web about the army being prepared for a summer of discontent and the calls to ban the BNP who are supposedly stirring things up (convenient for labour given the inroads they have made into the traditional labour vote) what’s the betting … gordo is planning (to -ed) call a civil emergency before 2010? I still have my doubts about that Scottish bye election they won so surprisingly – could have been a straw in the wind!

  9. oldrightie
    Posted March 4, 2009 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    He should aslo mention that he is angry at the aide who suggested a present made out of a ship that’s only action was to shell rebellioous slaves!

  10. Bazman
    Posted March 4, 2009 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    Lets sail a warship against the pirates. When most of the pirates are British, as most pirates are.

  11. Matthew Reynolds
    Posted March 4, 2009 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    Well put John ! That makes a great deal of sense !

  12. rugfish
    Posted March 4, 2009 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    An economic hurricane has hit the world and we should have the confidence not to race to the bottom into protectionism. America and Britain will succeed and lead. This is the practical affirmation of our times for our faith in a better future.

    Prime Minister Gordon Brown was at his best. He exuded personal commitment, confidence, insight, guts, determination and a future vision with his not so mean and yet still green agenda which included more of the world rather than less. He was given rounding applause and many standing ovations throughout his almost 30 minute speech to both Congressmen and Senators. The first minister of Europe to be invited to Washington and unlike many expected, Gordon Brown rose to the challenge and was well received.

    He ran through American history and gave his heartfelt praise to the beacon of liberty, along with his committed support and his country’s backing for its aims. He hoped to persuade America and its leading counsel to agree to his global agenda to put right the financial crisis with Gordon’s “global solution”, which would entail global regulations along with a global cooperation with Britain and America which he said should lead the way. He described Britain’s relationship as a “partnership of purpose”, and you could tell he meant every last word.

    If he can pull this off. Repairing the biggest financial black hole ever to bring crisis to our planet, then his political score and his political rating will no doubt be given ‘Triple A’ in just about every city on earth.

    For this plan to work, we need to put politics to one side and back a global plan to sort out the mess. Let Gordon Brown enjoy every last moment of what could really be said to be his biggest day so far in politics, and give him some credit for blunt pragmatism which he uttered with every sentence he spoke today. I say well done to him for a truly well spoken speech, and I hope together with other leaders, Gordon can give the world a new system which will work this time.

    Meanwhile, I see no other way other than a been there and done it plan which would hurl us back in time to the 1930’s.

    • alan jutson
      Posted March 5, 2009 at 8:23 am | Permalink

      Agree the second two thirds of his speech struck a chord, and had some purpose in a Statesman like way, but the first part was sickening and grovelling (what a shame) but its what the US love to hear, and he loves the US.
      Interesting he did not blame them for starting the problems this time though, as he does when he is here, perhaps this would not have gone down so well.

      Agree entirely that we need a world wide Banking Regulation System, as we do for the Trading of Shares and other Commodities, in an attempt to try and end the casino culture which has developed.

    • adam
      Posted March 5, 2009 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

      ha ha

  13. Adrian Peirson
    Posted March 5, 2009 at 3:33 am | Permalink

    Obama is part of the New World Order, he did not win the US Election.
    Here;s who won

    Here’s why you never heard of him.

  14. Bill
    Posted March 5, 2009 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    An honorary knighthood for Teddy Kennedy!?

    words left out

    Its a disgrace

  15. James Joyce
    Posted July 21, 2009 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    Well researched site – I love Bernard Cornwell’s work! – Will look to incorporate some of your ideas into my site. Thanks!

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    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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