berlusconi-grinningThe seating order at the pre-summit dinner is vital (Indonesia and South Korea should be especially happy apparently), the UK is gripped by Michelle Obama’s dresses and the fact she towers over the queen and Barack gave the queen an iPod. In the meantime all the sherpas are beavering away to prepare a G20 communiqué that will be rather weak and bland, while the press still tries to give the impression that it’s the heads of states and governments themselves that are putting the icing on the cake. And all of this is despite the little petulant child Sarko threatening to throw his toys out of the pram, with a bit of taciturn support from Merkel. You even have Berlusconi smiling like an idiot on the pictures.

What a load of complete and utter rubbish. The very existence of the G20 is a post-modern construction, logos and all, a vague effort to widen the appeal of the G78 with the realisation that there are more than 8 major economic players in the world. All the leaders flock to London, press crews in tow, security everywhere, riots to make it look like all of this actually matters, even Jamie Oliver to do the cooking.

The meeting is too large to be effective and 6 months from now there’s no means to ensure that anything agreed was actually implemented – there’s no legal sanction for non-implementation, and no government is going to survive or fall on the basis of its negotiation stance at the G20. The meeting will essentially be forgotten.

The G20 is hence the ultimate postmodern fudge – ideal for the 24 hour news environment that favours the personal story over the substance, ideal for the ego-driven leaders that like the limelight, but a waste of time when it comes to results and actually changing the world.

[UPDATE 5.4.09]
Peter Oborne, one of those tough, probing journalists that really gets under the skin of politicians looks at the numbers in more detail. I think the overall direction of his piece is about right.


  1. I agree with you Jon. And unfortunatly it is not limited to the G20.

    Treaties, laws, statements… I think what matters in the end is accountability. So, why not track the implementation of what our politician say. Consider the Obameter (

    It is up to us to make sure they deliver.


  2. Jon,

    You’re right on this particular G20. Politics are show business, I’m still waiting for the Big Brother license to be attached to it and Medvedev stealing Carla Bruni to Sarko.

    But on the more positive note – big changes came in history also through political statements, not only treaties. Even with treaties, you’re never sure they end up ratified i.e. implemented. So, political consultations are good, if you have serious people behind. Unfortunatelly, on the European side this time around, you have but a few.


  3. Excellent post. Fully agree with you Jon.

  4. That’s just one layer of it.

    The IMF will be celebrating.

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