I have heard UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown speak on many occasions. Often his tone comes across as a drab mixture of dour-Scotsman and Mr. Scrooge after a bad night out on the wiskey.
But in his address yesterday to a joint session of Congress, he seemed electrified and animated. Some are now saying it was his finest hour.
The standing ovations he received from Congress are very different from the political bickering he is used to back in Westminster.
The image of an articulate and passionate politician being enthusiastically received contrasts sharply with the forlorn embattled Prime Minster back in Britain.
As Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian noted: “Senators and congressmen mobbed him, some seeking his autograph, others clamouring for a handshake. From the most powerful audience he has ever addressed, he got the warmest response.”
Amongst Brown’s message for Congress were three important passages on oil and climate. The first was a general concept of a “planet imperilled. “Past British prime ministers have travelled to this Capitol building in times of war to talk of war,” said Brown. “I come now to talk of new and different battles we must fight together; to speak of a global economy in crisis and a planet imperilled.”
The second was the use of environmental technology. “It is only by investing in environmental technology that we can end the dictatorship of oil, and it is only by tackling climate change that we create the millions of new green jobs we need For the lesson of this crisis is that we cannot just wait for tomorrow today.”
And the third was working together on the need for a “low carbon economy”. “I am confident”, said Brown, “that this president, this Congress and the peoples of the world can come together in Copenhagen this December to reach a historic agreement on climate change.”
The trouble for Brown is that, whilst his speech made headlines back home it hardly registered with the American media. The other problem for him, is that he has been in the driving seat of the New Labour project – either as Chancellor or Prime Minister for a dozen year – and he has really done nothing significant on climate change or challenging the “dictatorship of oil”.
The other problem for him is – like Obama – the more you raise the bar of expectation, the more people will expect political results. If there is going to be a deal in Copenhage, it will only happen if we all keep pressurizing our political leaders. Because, in Gordon’s words: “We cannot just think of tomorrow today. We cannot merely plan for tomorrow today. Our task must be to build tomorrow today.”
We will hold you to your words Gordon. You had better not fail in Copenhagen.