As an American, the visceral disdain for Gordon Brown amongst my friends and colleagues in Britain has long perplexed me. Today, the biggest problem facing Britain remains the fallout of the financial crisis. No one can sensibly fault Gordon Brown’s actions during this incredibly difficult time. Meanwhile, the Tories’ fixation on the deficit will lead to massive spending cuts that will threaten the fragile economic recovery. And given the debacle in Greece, the Lib Dems and their affection for the euro don’t seem particularly sensible either.
Back in October 2008, after Lehman Brothers collapsed and the world financial system seemed to be teetering on the brink, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman wrote a New York Times column asking: “Has Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, saved the world financial system?” While his counterparts in the OECD nations dithered, the PM had acted rapidly and decisively to inject equity into banks and guarantee their debts. Much of the rest of the world followed his lead and the financial crisis, while devastating, did not metastasize into a replay of the great depression.
Admittedly, Brown spent his years as chancellor paving the way for the eventual meltdown, but then so did just about every other member of the world’s political and economic establishment. So did Larry Summers, Bob Rubin, Bill Clinton and Alan Greenspan. Certainly so would have David Cameron, so would have Nick Clegg.
This week, Krugman reiterated his support for Brown’s policies, noting he found it “utterly bizarre” that the Economist has backed the Tories. As the crisis continues to unfold, it is hard to imagine that he will ever write about how the wisdom and experience of Cameron or Clegg have saved the world financial system.