Will Brown woo the US? Or is the Pope a Catholic?

Gordon Brown is heading to Wall Street to crack some heads together. They must be quaking in their boots...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

As part of his three-day state visit to the US, the under-fire Prime Minister will meet with top Wall Street bankers to urge them to come clean quickly about their sub-prime losses. This is not, of course, a brazen attempt to deflect attention away from the problems on his own doorstep – he will apparently tell them that we won’t be able to drag ourselves out of the credit crunch until we know how bad things really are.

It seems a bit far-fetched to us that all these huge banks, already under huge scrutiny from US politicians, the Federal Reserve, the media and most importantly their own shareholders, will suddenly come clean about bigger losses just because a currently-not-very-popular British prime minister told them to. And let’s face it, he hasn’t even had much luck persuading his own banks to play ball – despite reports that Brown was planning to crack down on those refusing to pass interest rate cuts on to their mortgage customers, the Halifax (Britain’s biggest mortgage lender) said yesterday it was planning to put its rates up by another 0.5%. Not quite what Gordon had in mind.

In fact, some are wondering whether anyone in the US will actually notice he’s there at all. So far he’s been totally overshadowed by the Pope, who - unluckily for Brown - is there at the same time. Benedict XVI’s six-day visit (his first to the US) has dominated the press in recent weeks, and he received an eye-catching welcome from the president and hundreds of cheering admirers when he touched down in Maryland yesterday. In comparison, Brown was greeted by the American equivalent of one man and his dog.

It’s not been all bad news for the PM this week – inflation remains at 2.5%, lower than expected, while today unemployment figures revealed that the jobless figure dropped by another 39,000 in the three months to February. And arguably this assault on Wall Street is a shot to nothing for Brown – at some stage all the banks will presumably have to reveal more losses, so he can then claim all the credit...

But with his popularity at its lowest ever ebb – people are even starting to ask him whether he plans to quit, unthinkable during his post-accession honeymoon period – he really needed a good US trip. Note to Downing Street: don’t go head-to-head with the Pope in future...

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