Spare a thought for him
Posted on June 6th, 2009

Bandula Kothalawala London N7

Remember the infamous warning issued to the Government of Sri Lanka by Gordon Brown, British Prime Minister, on 17 May 2009 on the consequences of its action?


Alas, it does not seem to have done him any good or for that matter, to his Government’s dwindling fortunes. Mr Brown’s warning went unheeded, leaving him little option but to grin and bear. It was indeed a rather humiliating experience for Mr Brown who habitually takes himself very seriously, especially, as he had already been assured by the young David that the SL Government would relent if sufficient pressure was brought to bear upon it. Of course, the Foreign Secretary, with his LTTE comrades (mis)led by Keith Vaz, breathing down his neck, had no choice, but to beseech the Prime Minister again and again and again.


Things seem to have gone from bad to worse since that ill-fated, ill-timed and ill-tempered obtuse warning to the Sri Lankan Government. It looks as if it has even rebounded on Mr Brown himself! He did talk about consequences of action, didn’t he? There seems to be some malefic karmic forces hovering around his abode.  


Even the most sycophantic of his lieutenants have started deserting him. The fawning Jacqui Smith, Home Secretary, is gone following revelations of her recalcitrant husband’s claims on public funds for watching adult films. Hazel Blears, Community Secretary, stabbed him in the face by resigning on the eve of local government and European elections. To add insult to injury, she was sporting a broach marked “Rocking the Boat!! James Purnell, Work and Pensions Secretary, in his resignation letter, asked Mr Brown to step down to save the Labour Party “”…” a perfidious act by any standards. Caroline Flint, Minister for Europe, before her departure, accused Mr Brown of using women as “female-window dressing”. Mr Brown and his henchmen are said to be incandescent over the treacherous remarks. John Hutton, Defence Secretary and Geoff Hoon, Transport Secretary, have left Mr Brown’s rapidly shrinking Cabinet. The haemorrhage is likely to continue despite Mr Brown’s frantic efforts to staunch the wounds. A wan Mr Brown, from his bunker in Downing Street, has assured the world that he would not “walk away.”


Perhaps, the most unfortunate thing is not that these ministers decided to leave the sinking ship. The tragedy is that Mr Brown is still stuck with Mr Miliband who sticks to his portfolio like a limpet. Mr Miliband, in the last two years, has done more damage to British foreign policy than all his predecessors put together. Even the Indian commentators who normally take a charitable view of his knowledge of world politics and diplomatic skills could hardly conceal their anger and disbelief. He was, perhaps, the first and the only British Foreign Secretary to be honoured with an effigy in Colombo, although the likeness of which is still in dispute. His pompous, but insipid and puerile utterances on foreign policy have become the laughing stock. Add to that, the ignominious defeat of his brainchild “”…” resolution against Sri Lanka – in the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva where Mr Miliband’s acolytes failed even to retain the 17 votes they had at the beginning of the debate. His gauche manoeuvrings against Sri Lanka in the UN ended in abject failure. However, Mr Brown is condemned to live with the millstone around his neck, for his authority has waned so much that he is unable to dislodge him.   


Mr Brown used to crow over his skilful management of the economy. In the past, he has claimed credit for anything and everything going right in the British economy from inflation, growth to employment through national debt. In brief, Mr Brown used to mimic the behaviour of the proverbial rooster claiming credit for the dawn. 


Things look rather different now. Unemployment reached 7.1% in March 2009. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was down by 1.9% in the first quarter of 2009. The Public sector net debt, expressed as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), rose to 53.2% in April 2009 from 42.9% in April 2008. Mr Brown’s Government is sailing through turbulent economic waters. Of course, Mr Brown who used to wax lyrical about the robustness of the British economy found the perfect excuse. He blames every thing on Ninja loans in the USA.


Mr Brown has an exceedingly high opinion of himself and wants everyone to believe that he is the man of the hour or the messiah that the world has been waiting for. In fact, on 10 December 2008, perhaps, through a Freudian slip of (forked?) tongue, he told the House of Commons that he was going to “save the world”! Mr Brown’s mastery of economics leaves a great deal to be desired. He did not have the faintest idea about the financial crisis until it hit the British economy. On his advice, in October 2008, the UK Treasury reached agreement on a bailout package for the banks in exchange for a five-year ban on the payment of dividends to shareholders. Little did he or his advisors realise that such a ban would send banking shares tumbling down on the stock exchange. In less than a week, Mr Brown and his advisors were forced to relax the rules.


The results of the local government elections spell disaster. Mr Brown’s Party has come third in terms of the share of the national vote. The results of the European elections are unlikely to be much better. Yet, Mr Brown is adamant that he still has a job to do.  Perhaps, he wants to issue one final warning to a banana republic in the Caribbean.


The writing is on the wall.   


Bandula Kothalawala

London N7

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