He did not go quite as far as saying, "It's got to be Gordon" but the respected former head of the World Bank yesterday threw his weight firmly behind the UK's ex-prime minister to be the next head of the International Monetary Fund.
At present there is no vacancy and James Wolfensohn’s remarks might have passed unnoticed had they not directly contradicted those made by the current British Prime Minister in a radio interview this week.
David Cameron delivered a scathing denunciation of Mr Brown’s competence to head up the intergovernmental organisation that runs the global financial system. The IMF needs someone who “understands the dangers of excessive debt”, snapped Mr Cameron. It was an unwise remark that suggests Mr Cameron is in need of better PR advice. The job is not in his gift.
Mr Brown, who has made no secret of the fact that he would like it, will have to satisfy a majority on the board of the IMF, some of whom may consider that he is weighed down by too much political baggage.
But Mr Cameron’s intervention made him seem petty and vindictive. It was unworthy of him. Did Margaret Thatcher lay into James Callaghan? Did Tony Blair attack John Major? No. Both would have considered such conduct to be bad form.
On the face of it Mr Brown is well qualified to take over from the Frenchman Dominque Strauss-Kahn, who may stand down shortly to take on Nicolas Sarkozy in next year’s presidential elections.
It was Mr Brown who made the case for doubling Britain’s foreign aid budget so unassailably that the Coalition dare not reverse it. When the credit crunch hit, he was the one who engineered global fiscal stimulus and stabilised the banking sector. Few could doubt his passionate desire to help the world’s poorest citizens. More to the point perhaps, he made a decent fist of chairing one of the IMF’s key committees until 2007.
Of course, it would be politically suicidal for the Prime Minister to acknowledge any of this. He simply cannot afford to let up on the line that Britain’s economic problems are all Labour’s fault.
At the next General Election the Tories will still be blaming everything on Labour. If by then Mr Brown has been chosen by other countries to run the most important global financial institution, that narrative may be undermined.
Mr Cameron was on better ground when he suggested that the time may have come for a non-European IMF director. The financial crisis has hastened the eastward shift of economic power. Given the country’s lack of progress on human rights and relentless economic self-interest, it is surely too soon to think of giving the job to a Chinese candidate? But there is no reason why it could not go to somewhere like India, provided its candidate could command respect internationally.
Ultimately, competence, not politics, must be the deciding factor and a deep-seated longing to make the world a better place. There may be other reasons for passing over the former incumbent of 10 Downing St for this vital job but David Cameron’s assessment of Mr Brown’s grasp of macroeconomics is not one of them.
We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis. If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules, which are available here.
Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.