When Gordon Brown and Barack Obama held their joint press conference earlier today, the American president lavished praise on the British prime minister. Mr. Obama said the world owed Brown “an extraordinary debt of gratitude” for spearheading the G20 summit. “Debt” is the word that will be written on Brown’s political tombstone. Having failed to put money aside during the boom years, Britain is now deeply in the red.
Without the benefit of America’s reserve-currency status there are some worries that Brown will struggle to borrow enough money to bridge the gap between Britain’s collapsing tax receipts and out-of-control spending. Like in the 1970s, there are fears that Britain may have to turn to the IMF for a bailout. Center-right journalist Fraser Nelson of The Spectator magazine captured the scale of the borrowing challenge last week. He wrote that it would be necessary to “raise Value Added Tax to 25 per cent, double corporation tax, close the Foreign Office, cancel all international aid, disband the army and the police, release all prisoners, close every school and abolish unemployment benefit [in order to] close the gulf between what the UK government spends and what it raises in taxes.”
The man that will inherit this dire situation will be Conservative leader David Cameron. Mr. Cameron — a staunch opponent of Gordon Brown’s fiscal stimulus — also met President Obama today. They’ll soon be meeting as their nations’ respective heads of government. All opinion polls point to Mr. Cameron heading for a comfortable parliamentary majority at a General Election, which must be held by next summer.
In one year’s time David Cameron is likely to be the world’s most senior conservative leader. American conservatives can find much to admire in his social and fiscal conservatism. His “realism” on foreign policy and enthusiasm for the green lobby will be more problematic.
— Tim Montgomerie is editor of ConservativeHome.com.