AS world premiers prepare to gather in France to grapple with another global recession, just where will any leadership come from?
I accept that the end-of-the-month soirée comes under the auspices of the G20 so that emerging nations like India, China and Brazil can be also represented.
Yet, realistically, the summits still revolve around the G8 – and one look at the current roll-call does not inspire any confidence whatsoever.
It is headed by Barack Obama, a lame-duck US president with America facing political and economic deadlock until next November’s elections.
Even then, the US and the world maybe lumbered with a second Obama term by default, simply because of the inability of the Republicans to unite behind a creditable candidate to take on the financial incompetence of a “spend, spend, spend” President.
Then there’s President Dmitry Medvedev from Russia – and the only certainty in these troubled times is that he will be replaced by the dictatorial Vladimir Putin next year. How reassuring. Not.
It does not get any better. Yoshihiko Noda is Japan’s eighth Prime Minister this century. He’s only just come to power and his most loyal followers don’t expect him to survive any longer than 12 months in post.
Closer to home, Nicolas Sarkozy – the President of France – faces re-election next year, is deeply unpopular and is now having to come to terms with the French banking crisis.
In Germany, Angela Merkel’s popularity has reached a new low, with her coalition floundering as voters question why they should continue propping up near-bankrupt countries like Greece.
And then there’s Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s prime minister who is always one scandal away from resignation.
By my calculations, that leaves Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada, and our own David Cameron who are relatively untarnished, though concerns are growing – and justifiably so – about the coalition’s cuts here. Given its resources, one could have hoped that the dear old EU could have filled this power vacuum. But how can it when Baroness Cathy Ashton, its foreign affairs supremo, cannot – according to reports – even get a security-cleared computer to ease communications? After all, she only took up her job nearly two years ago, on December 1, 2009. Confidence and competence are the most priceless commodities of all in these troubled times– and both appear to be in perilously short supply. Given this roll-call, who can provide some leadership?
TO those who think Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper – Mrs Ed Balls – is the person who can lead the Labour Party back to political, economic and electoral credibility, let me pose these two questions.
Could the Pontefract and Castleford MP lead the country, with her husband running the Treasury? Would it be right that so much power rested with one couple? And if her husband stepped aside to further his wife’s political ambitions, can anyone imagine a scenario where Ed Balls would be content to host charity functions and open play centres – the traditional role of the Prime Minister’s spouse?
IT’S not just Rachel Reeves, the Leeds West MP, who is coming to terms with her new role as Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury.
So, too, is her Leeds-born assistant Nick Quin, who worked with Reeves on mastering her former pensions brief.
For most of the summer, however, Quin – a keen cyclist – had been counting his hero Mark Cavendish’s stage wins in the Tour de France.
He says it was time well spent ahead of taking on the daunting economics brief. “It’s a big number to deal with,” he says.
ON regular visits to the eye unit at St James’s Hospital, Leeds, I’m always asked for the name of my GP as part of the checks carried out by the receptionists.
I have no problem – except that I can never remember my doctor’s name because I cannot recall the last time that I actually saw him. It is a problem with family doctors – they have so many responsibilities that you rarely see the same individual. No wonder patient confidence in GP services is declining.
TO those senior citizens living in the Yorkshire countryside who believe David Cameron is the best man to lead Britain, just remember this: rural affairs and pensions had the most perfunctory of mentions at the Tory conference, and barely registered during his keynote speech. They may care to remind the PM of his mistake overlooking this section of society in the weeks ahead, as rural services come under the greatest pressure of all in the spending squeeze.
THIS is why the BBC is over-staffed – and why the planned cuts should not lead to poorer programmes.
On the day it announced its austerity measures, I had the fortune/misfortune (delete as appropriate) to listen to its three and a half hour evening sports programme on Five Live.
There were three main presenters – one in London, one in Montenegro ahead of the England football international and the talented John Inverdale in New Zealand for rugby’s World Cup. I then lost count of the number of pundits in each location.
Why could one person not present the programme from London? After all, Peter Jones, one of the greatest sports commentators of all time who will always be associated with his evocative introduction to Sports Report on the day of Hillsborough, managed to switch seamlessly to different events – and also broadcast on State occasions.