Khartoum, Gordon and Gladstone

When Gordon Brown stood up to present his 11th budget, he did not miss the occassion to remind the MPs that only one man before him - Gladstone - had the distinction of presenting eleven budgets. In fact, Gladstone did 12, but by the time he was doing his 11th, he was already the Prime Minister.

His intended audience, of course, was Tony Blair, who is supposed to retire end of June, and hand over the No. 10 to Gordon Brown. It may be a fairly short lease, as things are not looking good for Labour, and Gordon Brown must inject some new ideas and thoughts to lift its fortunes. However, so far, it is not looking so good.

Take Iraq, for example. Brown has said little what he will do with Iraq. Withdrawing may quickly become as big a disaster as staying on. It seems that withdrawing now will cede space to Iran, at a juncture when they are increasingly defiant and becoming a real risk.

Or, fiscal policies for example. If Brown did anything new in his budget, it was playing with trivia, and this budget was promptly dubbed as a '2p Budget' in the media. Not very helpful, I suppose! The other new idea was to try to turn Green, but so far the policy seems to be imposing taxes that affect people trying to live a normal modern life, than demonstrating any sincere intention to make a difference. Green taxes, fine - but where is the additional investment in transport which will make it easy for people to shun cars and airplanes? Where is the drive for renewable energy? Brown certainly does not want to present his 12th budget.

Also, another favourite parallel - now there is a problem in Khartoum, there is a Gordon who invokes Gladstone. I do believe that Sudan is becoming a huge embarassment, a clear evidence that the West does not care, and will undermine Western influence in Africa completely if this is allowed to go on. Along with Bush administration's ill-advised intervention in Somalia, the ongoing disaster in Sudan will further weaken the standing of Western powers in Africa. Not a good thing - as it seems that the next proxy war between superpowers will be fought on African soils.

Britain needs to take a stance, quickly, on Darfur. There is a genocide going on. Keeping hands off - a Gladstonian mistake - will brand Gordon Brown as the man who lost Africa. Besides, it will further emphasize the view that Anglo-Saxon powers only act on their commercial greed and self-interest, and the moral stand they always seem to talk about, is nothing.

So, Gordon Brown has a choice - between being Gordon and being Gladstone - on Sudan. Sadly, we almost know who he will intend to follow.

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