Gordon Brown rallies support for his IMF bid

Cameron is powerless to veto his old rival’s appointment.

Gordon Brown had started to campaign to become the next head of the IMF even before Dominique Strauss-Kahn's career imploded on Sunday. His article in the current edition of Newsweek (written before DSK's downfall), is a transparent job application:

The IMF showed a few months ago that if the world worked together, up to 50 million new jobs could be created – millions of them in Europe and America – and 100 million people could be taken out of poverty. This November, at the next G20 summit, under the leadership of Presidents Sarkozy and Obama, we have the chance to take control of the huge and historic changes confronting us. It is not our fate to be at the mercy of financial chaos, decline and recession: there is an alternative. Securing it will not be easy, but, as I have said before, it is in the space between the possible and the perfect that campaigners for justice must always be.

Today's Financial Times reports that Brown has told friends that he still has a chance of winning the top job and that "he's not taking no for an answer". So, is Brown worth a flutter?

As a European, he is eligible for the post (by tradition, the head of the World Bank is an American, while the head of the IMF is a European), and although David Cameron is free to state his opposition to Brown's appointment, he is powerless to veto it. In addition, the former PM can point to the fact that he sat on the IMF policy committe for ten years and that his rescue of the UK economy was imitated across the world.

But, as things stands, he's unlikely to get the nod. Should the IMF appoint another European, it is most likely to opt for Christine Lagarde, the politically astute French finance minister, who would be the first woman to hold the post.

Alternatively, as France has held the top job for 26 of the past 33 years, the job could go to Germany's Axel Weber, who resigned as president of the Bundesbank in February and has the backing of Angela Merkel. Then there is possibility that the IMF will break with history and appoint a non-European. On either count, Brown is not the man to beat.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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What Jeremy Corbyn gets right about the single market

Technically, you can be outside the EU but inside the single market. Philosophically, you're still in the EU. 

I’ve been trying to work out what bothers me about the response to Jeremy Corbyn’s interview on the Andrew Marr programme.

What bothers me about Corbyn’s interview is obvious: the use of the phrase “wholesale importation” to describe people coming from Eastern Europe to the United Kingdom makes them sound like boxes of sugar rather than people. Adding to that, by suggesting that this “importation” had “destroy[ed] conditions”, rather than laying the blame on Britain’s under-enforced and under-regulated labour market, his words were more appropriate to a politician who believes that immigrants are objects to be scapegoated, not people to be served. (Though perhaps that is appropriate for the leader of the Labour Party if recent history is any guide.)

But I’m bothered, too, by the reaction to another part of his interview, in which the Labour leader said that Britain must leave the single market as it leaves the European Union. The response to this, which is technically correct, has been to attack Corbyn as Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland are members of the single market but not the European Union.

In my view, leaving the single market will make Britain poorer in the short and long term, will immediately render much of Labour’s 2017 manifesto moot and will, in the long run, be a far bigger victory for right-wing politics than any mere election. Corbyn’s view, that the benefits of freeing a British government from the rules of the single market will outweigh the costs, doesn’t seem very likely to me. So why do I feel so uneasy about the claim that you can be a member of the single market and not the European Union?

I think it’s because the difficult truth is that these countries are, de facto, in the European Union in any meaningful sense. By any estimation, the three pillars of Britain’s “Out” vote were, firstly, control over Britain’s borders, aka the end of the free movement of people, secondly, more money for the public realm aka £350m a week for the NHS, and thirdly control over Britain’s own laws. It’s hard to see how, if the United Kingdom continues to be subject to the free movement of people, continues to pay large sums towards the European Union, and continues to have its laws set elsewhere, we have “honoured the referendum result”.

None of which changes my view that leaving the single market would be a catastrophe for the United Kingdom. But retaining Britain’s single market membership starts with making the argument for single market membership, not hiding behind rhetorical tricks about whether or not single market membership was on the ballot last June, when it quite clearly was. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.