Seems like just yesterday when British Prime Minister Gordon Brown had sunk below the Mendoza Line. Criticism had morphed to ridicule. The man had been skewered as the anti-Midas of politics-everything he touched had turned to stone.
But things turned on a dime for Mr. Brown. Now we see him as a global savior. The European media sings his praises daily and even newly canonized Nobel economist Paul Krugman lauds the dour Scotsman as the guy who got it right with his plan to inject cash directly into UK banks, a plan soon copied around the world. All hail the laser-like antidote that saved us from the abyss!
How are we to explain the transformation? Did the lights just go on, was it dumb luck, or did circumstances simply play to his strengths?
The Economist suggests it’s mostly the latter. Brown was smart enough to recognize a good idea when he saw one. Thus, his plan borrowed from Sweden’s 1992 bank-rescue strategy for example, and it incorporated good ideas put forward by David Cameron’s Conservatives.
Beyond this, his austere personality and the experience he gained as economic grand master for the Blair administration positioned him to think clearly at the moment others were counting life preservers (including a certain Treasury Secretary who cut his teeth during flamboyant times on Wall Street).
But the phoenix act may be short-lived for Mr. Brown. A lot rides on whether his plan actually works and whether folks in the UK blame him for the deep recession they (and we) still must face.
One thing we know on this side of the pond is that the Brits will not give Mr. Brown a long leash. We’re still trying to figure out why they soured so completely on Tony Blair.