How the G20 London Summit has made history

This article was published in the Yorkshire Post
G20 : History will take note of this first truly global gathering

3 April 2009
SOMETHING quite historic has happened. Forget all the headlines and photo-calls and grandstanding by national leaders profiling themselves for a domestic audience.
The London global summit has every chance of entering history as an event as important as the Congress of Vienna that drew up new rules for European peace after Napoleon's downfall; as significant as the Versailles Conference that invented the League of Nations after 1918; or as era-changing as the great meetings at the end of the Second World War that gave birth to the international institutions that ushered in long years of peace and prosperity six decades ago.Tennyson, England's great epic poet, foresaw the ambition of the London summit. He described "the Federation of the World" where "the common-sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe, And the kindly earth shall slumber, lapt in universal law".Of course, David Cameron and Nick Clegg have to slash and lash at the Prime Minister. The duty of Her Majesty's Opposition parties is to oppose. And the first meeting of the Politburo of the Planet in London is unlikely to impact directly on one of my favourite restaurants, the Mayor's Parlour in Rotherham, whose owner sends me an email cri du coeur that her business may go under as customers cut back on spending.But Britain might be proud that at a crucial moment in world history, it is again the world's oldest democracy that has survived wars, economic upheaval, and huge social, religious and ethnic changes to keep the faith with democracy, rule of law and market economics to host this global gathering.Previous efforts to draw up rules to make the world a better place foundered on the absence of losers, or just a tiny group of powerful imperiums deciding among themselves what should be done.London yesterday was something quite different. The poorest of the planet from Asia, Africa and Latin America were there. The most important Muslim economy, Saudi Arabia, was present. The Russian and American president met and offered a massive build-down of nuclear weapons.No, they are not signing up for CND but those who have campaigned long and hard for a reduction in nuclear arsenals should take heart.Little noticed by the London media obsessing over Obama or falling for Elysée spin that Sarkozy would walk out were Latin American leaders like President Lula of Brazil or Presidents Calderon of Mexico and Kirchner of Argentina.Gordon Brown was mocked for travelling to Brazil and Chile last week. But this is the first time that Latin America has been given a global say at a high level in global politics. Only yesterday it seemed Latin America, and much of the rest of the world, was throbbing with fury against the United States and George W Bush. Now Britain has turned hate into co-operation and allowed the Obama balm to work its healing powers.The 19th and early 20th century efforts to create a ruling committee for world affairs foundered because of racial superiority or because the losers were excluded. Brown and Britain have helped create "win-win" global economic20governance.From now on, India and China have to accept responsibility in exchange for respectability. The white man's club that ruled the world since Colombus set sail has shut up shop. Making all the G20 promises and pledges work will require endless, patient work but no-one should doubt the achievement.In economic terms there will be a $2 trillion plus injection of demand into the world economy. This is the equivalent of creating the GDP of Britain and using it to increase demand. The IMF receives a three-fold boost to recycle to developing nations but the rich man's club committee of the IMF will have to allow more than the post-1945 Euro-atlantic nations to make its decisions.Banking will have to accept stricter national and supra-national regulation. Every crisis in capitalism has resulted not in its abolition as some noisy protesters demanded but its reform.Angela Merkel may be hoping for too much when she said it is time to give capitalism "a conscience". Money has no faith nor morality. Like water to live or oil to make an engine run, money is necessary and the more of it that is available the better. Despite the claims that Germany opposed spending, Berlin is actually boosting demand in its economy by as much if not more than Brita in. Berlin is offering £2,500 to anyone who trades in an old car for a new BMW or Mercedes – one of the biggest boosts via taxpayers' cash in German history.To be sure, one meeting does not save the world economy from the folly of banksters, still less governments that lived on tick or believed in building up giant surpluses like China and Germany. Both Berlin and Beijing now have an interest in working to get trade surpluses into circulation. Otherwise fewer and fewer BMWs and made-in-China goods will get sold.It is important to remember that the G20 is about economics. Locking together undemocratic China, semi-democratic Russia, India with half its population denied the right to read or write despite nominal Indian democracy, around the same conference table as rule-of-law, free expression democracies will be tricky. But jaw-jaw is always better than war-war. If, in time, nose pegs have to be put on to deal with dodgy rulers of not-very-democratic states in order to relaunch the economy or work for less conflict and more peace, so be it.It is not often that world history takes shape under our very eyes. After the Commons' Easter break, it will be politics as usual for Gordon=2 0Brown and Labour. As our history teaches us, being a successful world leader gets pages in history book but not necessarily votes in the ballot box.David Cameron, George Osborne, William Hague and Nick Clegg, who have sneered and mocked almost every decision or effort by Gordon Brown to inject demand into the UK economy or fashion a global response, should have the decency and courtesy to admit this has been a positive moment in British and global history. And Mr Brown deserves the praise that the rest of the world is showering on him.