Lots of talk of expectation setting pre the G20

It is hard enough if you have near total control
over an event – as with a single speech by a single politician, when other
people’s hopes and expectations for it can impact for good or bad. It is even
harder when it is a major diplomatic event to discuss a global economic crisis
attended by leaders of the world’s twenty major economies, a media circus from
all their countries and thousands of protesters ready to say that whatever is
agreed is not good enough.

There will be plenty of focus on the protests,
security, size of entourages, costs of the event, what the leaders eat and
drink, who sits next to whom, and anything and everything that can be gleaned
about Barack Obama and his interaction with the other leaders, particularly the
Russians, the Chinese and the Queen.

There will also be microfocus, minute by minute,
on any and all of the signals coming from inside the meeting about the nature
of the discussions and what that says about the possible conclusion.

Very little of the hype or the ballyhoo matters
compared with the fact of the meeting – for which Gordon Brown deserves credit
– the discussions before, during and after, and the decisions reached, not
least about the general direction of travel.

The strategic direction and specific decisions
agreed at the last such meeting in Washington, as the economic crisis really
bit, led to changes which, according to the IMF, have contributed to growth and
jobs. Two million jobs. 

An odd thing to say perhaps at a time economies
are shrinking and so many people are losing their jobs around the world. And
‘things could have been even worse if world leaders had not shoved the economy
in the stimulus-led direction they did’ is not the greatest political rallying
cry known to man But it is true.

I heard Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd – a
man who does what we call ‘good tone,’ and whose ratings at home are not far
from Obama territory – making the point that because leaders cannot achieve
everything that does not mean they should not gather to try to do something.
That is spot on.

The problems of the world economy, let alone the
challenge of climate change which will also be on the agenda, are not going to
be resolved by one week in London.

But however loud the protests, and however many
TV viewers around the world hear reporters telling them in a few days that the
outcome is far from perfect, or a fudge, or full of compromises to take into
account specific problems for specific leaders, the chances are it will make a
difference, and that it will be a difference for the better.

It is a political process, not a promise of