‘I urge Boris Johnson to convene a summit of all world leaders now’: a plea from ex-PM GORDON BROWN

As someone who, as Prime Minister, had to weather the storms of economic turmoil in 2008 when the global financial crash hit our country, the multi-faceted challenges facing Britain today are not are not what I would wish on any of my successors – Labor or Conservative.

From the cost of living crisis here to the war in Ukraine, to the massive global pressures caused by climate change and financial insecurity, never in my life have I seen so many challenges confronting a world already fractured on so many fronts.

For Boris Johnson, the current scenario is reminiscent of the one faced by British prime ministers in the 1930s – the so-called ‘Devil’s Decade’ when the world was marked by recession, protectionism, jingoism and the aggression of the great powers.

Mr Johnson (pictured at RAF Brize Norton after his trip to Kyiv) faces almost insurmountable tests

Mr Johnson may wish to remember the example of Winston Churchill during this decade. Out of power, before the Second World War, Churchill castigated the leaders of the day for being “resolved to be irresolute, inflexible for drifting, solid for fluidity and almighty for impotence”.

But I believe – as firmly as Churchill did then – that a moral effort by today’s world leaders who have the power to act can overcome each of the multiple and interwoven crises and show – as it has proven by his wartime leadership – that there is no problem that we cannot find a solution to.

In Britain in 2022, food bills are skyrocketing, fuel prices are skyrocketing and, for the first time in 25 years, inflation is spiraling out of control. We shouldn’t have come so far as a country – the fifth richest in the world – for there to be food banks, bedding banks, clothing banks, baby banks and fuel banks replacing the welfare state as the last line of defense against poverty and misery.

As Prime Minister from 2007 to 2010, Gordon Brown did more than any world leader to tackle the 2008 global <a class=financial crisis” class=”blkBorder img-share” style=”max-width:100%” />

As Prime Minister from 2007 to 2010, Gordon Brown did more than any world leader to tackle the 2008 global financial crisis

Does Mr Johnson want his legacy to be that of nurses, exhausted after long, grueling shifts, leaving their patients’ beds to line up at food banks to support their own families?

For its part, the Bank of England has lagged the inflation curve and interest rate hikes are unfortunately inevitable. But no Chancellor can stand aside and see low and middle income families, who once barely managed to get by, now having to choose between feeding themselves today or paying the gas bill tomorrow.

Because even after Rishi Sunak’s latest £15billion aid announcement, millions of families are facing a shortfall that must be closed before fuel bills rise by £800 in October.

But it is now also a global emergency affecting all countries.

Grounded last year by Covid, the world is being hit this year with hunger, droughts, floods, wildfires, heatwaves and melting ice caps – graphically encapsulated by the recent revelation that plastic particles have now been discovered in arctic snow. And it all adds up to Europe’s deadliest war since 1945.

No one should ever be allowed to wipe an entire country off the map or threaten to wipe it out through the use of nuclear weapons. And it’s only right that Britain, the long-term guarantor of Ukraine‘s independence – and Mr Johnson himself – take the lead in giving the Ukrainian people the military and humanitarian support they need and that he deserves and to demand that Vladimir Putin be indicted for war crimes before an international tribunal.

But the human tragedies now extend far beyond Ukraine and have biblical dimensions. Because if disease and plague struck in 2020, and war in the first months of 2022, the greatest global danger is now famine. Some 800 million people go without the food they need, 1.7 billion are pushed into poverty, including the 100 million people displaced from their homes by conflict or climate change.

Introspection: Prime Minister has something to think about, writes GORDON BROWN

Introspection: Prime Minister has something to think about, writes GORDON BROWN

Locals look at crumbling buildings in Lysychansk in the northwest Lugansk region earlier today

Locals look at crumbling buildings in Lysychansk in the northwest Lugansk region earlier today

Worse still, nearly two billion adults are still unvaccinated against Covid-19, a damning statistic that risks leading to the spread of a new variant across the world.

Yet, with so much to do, the international community seems paralyzed. Just when we need to come together, the world is tearing itself apart. NATO unity masks global disunity. To date, 82 countries – including India, Mexico, Brazil and all of Africa – have joined China as opponents or abstainers and therefore facilitators of Russian aggression. Some 150 countries have refused to impose sanctions. Their greatest grievance is that a Western-led globalization leaves their citizens poor and defenseless against natural and man-made disasters.

I could recite an endless stream of apologies from national leaders and central bank governors telling us that they are helpless in the face of global forces. But if the situation is perilous, they are not helpless. And neither does the prime minister.

Between themselves, they have the power to come to an agreement and to provide a collective and coordinated international response. We face global problems that require global solutions, and to address these parallel crises with common roots, we need an equally comprehensive global plan agreed by a summit of world leaders and international institutions.

The cost of living crisis is clear in record fuel prices seen at UK service stations

The cost of living crisis is clear in record fuel prices seen at UK service stations

Mr Johnson could lead the way on climate change (pictured, flash flooding in India this week)

Mr Johnson could lead the way on climate change (pictured, flash flooding in India this week)

On this point, Mr. Johnson could lead the way.

In 2008, we intervened in energy markets to lower oil prices. Now we need a plan to accelerate the transition to greener “net zero” economies.

There is enough food for everyone if it is distributed correctly.

So instead of 30 countries banning food exports and driving up prices, a concerted international initiative can restore sanity to commodity markets and feed the world.

A program that repositions the International Monetary Fund – too narrowly defined today as the safety net for struggling countries – as the watchdog and overseer of the global economy, could advance recovery and growth in developed and developing countries.

The recapitalization of the World Bank, now seen primarily as the adviser to the poor, to become the agent for delivering global public goods such as a clean environment and, in partnership with the UN, the financier of humanitarian aid, could demonstrate that today’s leaders can cope with today’s global emergencies.

The war in Ukraine (Lviv in March, pictured) poses a huge challenge to world leaders

The war in Ukraine (Lviv in March, pictured) poses a huge challenge to world leaders

Number Ten should also push for the recapitalization of the World Bank (Washington, DC HQ)

Number Ten should also push for the recapitalization of the World Bank (Washington, DC HQ)

With such renewal and reform of the global architecture, the World Trade Organization would be able to be the scourge of beggar-thy-neighbour protectionism that helps no one.

By working more closely together, the United Nations and the COP process, which hosted the Glasgow Climate Change Summit last year, could provide a concerted and properly coordinated push to avert an environmental Armageddon.

And the G20 – the summit of some 20 leading economies – is now set to expand to include the Nordic bloc and the Netherlands, and emerging developing world economies like Nigeria.

By becoming more representative and more legitimate, it could become the premier decision-making forum for a better-run global economy.

Again, the UK could lead the charge.

Do nothing and we’ll repeat this devil’s decade. But if leaders like Mr Johnson act now – by hosting a leaders’ summit – then in our hands lies the power to rein in rising oil prices, end food shortages, grow our economy so sustainable and to ensure a better standard of living for all.

Gordon Brown’s Seven Ways to Change the World is released on Thursday by Simon & Schuster for £12.99. To order a copy for £11.69, go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3176 2937 before July 2. Free UK delivery on orders over £20.

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