Lehman Brothers And Britain

As Ed Boyle explains in this London Comment, the world is watching American financial markets. CBS

There is an essential law of business and politics - every time a big beast falls, someone, somewhere gets a square meal. So right now, the Barclays vultures are tucking into Lehman's better bits. And Merrill Lynch has been gobbled up by Bank of America.

Here in Britain we've got a credit crisis too. And it hurts. But the unlikely beneficiary of the bad news is a man you've probably never heard of. His name is Gordon Brown. He is Britain's Prime Minister. He doesn't suffer from charisma.

A few months ago on this show, I described him as being slightly less popular than bubonic plague. This remains true, but requires an update. Some of Mr Brown's party colleagues have been plotting to get rid of him. They realised that he was an electoral liability. And under what may seem our strange political system, even serving Prime Ministers can be kicked out by their parties mid-term. That's what happened to Mrs. Thatcher back in 1990.

Well, this time, the clever money was on Gordon getting the heave-ho pretty soon. And then some bright fresh-faced figure would emerge to revive the Labour Government's fortunes. But that's the trouble with trading - every investment is risky. Nobody bargained on an economic crisis this big. And suddenly the potential successors to the unpopular Mr. Brown have gone quiet.

There are some small fish demanding a leadership election - some, indeed, have even resigned from the Government -- but there remains a complete shortage of BIG fish offering to take his place. You can't blame them.

Next year there may be an election in Britain. And Labor looks a dead cert to lose it - with or without Gordon. So the more the banks creak and tumble, the better Gordon's chances are of staying in office. After all, who'd dare to mount a coup while the banks are falling, one by one?

As luck would have it, his party's annual convention starts tomorrow. There could be trouble from within. But the current crisis has given him an unexpected lifeline as the 'father of the nation'. Will it last? Watch this space.
By Ed Boyle
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