Gordon Brown was left embarrassed tonight after a political ally inadvertently echoed the Tory attack on his stewardship of the economy. Chile President Michelle Bachelet said her Government had been able to introduce a significant fiscal stimulus because it had "saved in the good times". Although the comments came as she praised the Prime Minister's leadership, it sounded uncomfortably like David Cameron's charge that he did not "fix the roof while the sun was shining".Crisis? What crisis? George Osborne said...
"I would say that because of our decision during the good times, we decided to save same of the money for the bad times," Ms Bachelet said at a joint press conference in Santiago. "And I would say that policy today is producing results. So when we develop our fiscal stimulus plan we could make one that is 2.8% of GDP."
Ms Bachelet went on to point out that the UK had managed to introduce a stimulus of more than 2% of GDP. However, Mr Brown felt he needed to respond by insisting that the International Monetary Fund believed Britain was better prepared than most countries for the downturn.
The episode was the latest difficulty to beset Mr Brown's tour ahead of next week's G20 summit in London, which was on its fourth and final leg.
A keynote speech to the European parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday was overshadowed by a suggestion from Bank of England Governor Mervyn King that the UK may not be able to afford a further fiscal stimulus.
Then, as Mr Brown arrived in New York, Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek laid into Barack Obama's fiscal stimulus package and financial bailout plans as "the way to hell". In Brazil yesterday, Mr Brown's call for a 100 US billion dollar package to help revive international trade was upstaged when his host President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, launched an excoriating attack on the "white, blue eyed people" who had caused the economic crisis.
The President of Chile is right to point out, as we have done, that countries that put aside money in the good years are the ones that can afford to spend that money now without adding recklessly to national debt. Gordon Brown is getting lessons from the Latin Americans about sound public finances. You couldn't make it up. It is because under Labour, Britain suffers the national embarrassment of having the biggest budget deficit by far of any G20 country.Not going well for Gordon, is it?
UPDATE: Strangely this wasn't covered on the BBC Ten O'Clock News. Perhaps someone should get a clip of the press conference and send it to Dan Hannan so he can put it on Youtube!