I adore diplomatic language. I love the insinuations, the backhanded compliment, the veiled insults… it is, I believe, what makes reading countless speeches and articles worth doing.
For this reason, I love Christine Lagarde. I love how she gently slid a shining stiletto into Chancellor George Osbourne‘s soft gut, a belly bloated by the nourishment he’s denying to so many in our society, so desperately in need.
Christine Lagarde is the former Minister of Finance of France and the current head (Managing Director) of the International Monetary Fund, appointed in the wake of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s undignified retreat from the position.
(Another French politician in the role? Is this some form of conspiracy? Having said that (while not being very informed about her direct policies) I do love Lagarde – interviews with her are always a joy, an incisive mind and a delightful sense of humour. Having said all this, this makes me realise that I’ve never written on the DSK affair. Hmm.)
George Osborne, as we should all know by now, is Britain’s Chancellor – in a different age, he and Lagarde would have been counterparts (my word, I hope Osborne is never IMF head… that would be a disaster…). Indeed, he supported her strongly for the role of IMF Managing Director.
The pair appeared at a Chatham House event on Friday. Broadly, Lagarde described Britain’s current policy of cutting deeply and harshly into government spending etc as “appropriate”.
So, obviously, a glowing recommendation? Right?
Never so. Always pay attention to the rest – she also noted there must be a “heightened readiness to respond” if Britain does not appear to be recovering as well as it should.
From such a prominent figure, this is a deep criticism, even if hidden by a supposed compliment.
Osborne needed a glowing recommendation. Desperately. He needs international approval for his “recovery” plan, in order to increase confidence. But he’s not getting it. Nor shall he.
The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) has placed growth this year will be a mere 1.4%, rising to 1.8% next year. The OECD does say that the public spending cuts “should continue” but also that they must “strike the right balance” and that recovery will remain “weak”. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) themselves has said that Britain’s economic recovery has in fact slowed, to be 0.2 percent growth in the second quarter of 2011, down on last quarters 0.5%.
This is NOT good news.
Cameron hasn’t been getting the approval he so desperately craves either – do you recall in May when Obama discussed the need for Britain to have a plan B – “if a programme is not working, we should get rid of it” – and indeed went so far as to claim a different “sequence or pace” for reducing the deficit was appropriate.
So, there we go – look behind diplomatic language for the real critique. Then see if it’s right – the message coming from the rest of the planet that Britain is cutting too harshly seems to be being played out…
- UK may need to change course – IMF (mirror.co.uk)
- George Osborne pushing for united response (independent.co.uk)
- IMF boss Christine Lagarde backs Osborne in public – but in private? (guardian.co.uk)