Friday, March 06, 2009

Mandy And Brown Come Over All Green

The deluded prime minister and his despised deputy have come over all green, with Mandy getting a dollop of green custard and Brown talking hot air about green jobs for green people. 

Green is the new Brown and Mandy too. But is anyone that green to be take in by this latest green sham? 

Anti-Heathrow protester, Leila Deen, took the business secretary and his minders by surprise as she slimed business secretary Lord Mandleson with a  large helping of ego-friendly green custard, as he arrived at the launch of an eco-friendly low-carbon summit in London. 

"The only thing green about Peter Mandelson is the slime coursing through his veins," she proclaimed, protesting at reports that Mandelson met lobbyists from Heathrow owner BAA before the government gave the controversial go-ahead for a third runway.

Brushing aside the protest and the custard, a slimy Lord Mandelson dismissed the slimy incident, as an "adolescent protest". 

But it could have been much worse than cuddly custard and that does raise questions about the security of a government cabinet minister. 

“It's not right that someone like Peter Mandelson can stand up and talk about being green,” she retorted.

Silly sausage. It may not be right, Ms Green-Deen but in the real world of politics that's what politicians do. Jumping on the eco-bandwagon used to be a sure-fire vote winner. But it does seem the government has not caught up with the times. 

The protest came as the Supreme Green Leader was due to call for an international 'green New Deal', creating 400,000 new green jobs over the next eight years, to boost his green credentials as he scratches around for some green shoots of recovery. 

Now even with the Orange Party's rusty abacus this is a lot of hot air. 400,000 jobs over eight years - that's around 50,000 people a year lagging lofts. A drop in the ocean with 3m unemployed. It's so pointless it's hardly worth mentioning but it does grab a headline or two. 

In eight years time the New Labour project will be a faded twinkle in Mandeson's eye. 

What's needed and what isn't happening, is action now. More hard cash and funding for green projects, along with better regulation rather than empty green gestures and a lot of carbon-friendly hot air. 

Harking back to Obama, Green Gordon reckons more and more countries are already including 'green' measures in their fiscal stimulus packages as a way of creating jobs and growth.

But Obama's fiscal stimulus has already been branded a load of earmarking, pork-barrel waste and not just from disgruntled Republicans.  Nevertheless he has the luxury of years in office and he's riding high in the popularity polls. Brown is a dead duck. 

The last New Deal was a sham, creating useless, meaningless jobs, far removed from the real world and this would be no different. Talking the green talk cuts no ice with voters worried about jobs and making ends meet now. 

Cleanly living on another, much greener planet, Green Gordon delivers the same, tired old mantra: "That's why I want to create a global 'green new deal' that will pave the way for a low-carbon recovery and to help us build tomorrow's green economy today."

If the government wants to create thousands of jobs and tackle fuel poverty, the best way is to invest now in renewables and serious energy efficiency programmes. But that would require a very public investment on a very pubic accounts balance sheet. 

Once again the government is harking back to its failed policies of the boom years as it massages its green ego. 

Regulation, government grants and subsidies and direct government action is the only way forward to 'green' the economy in times of recession depression.

Pictures: Business secretary Lord Mandelson gets slimed (Sky News)


Has Obama Snubbed Brown For The Queen?

Obama has finally agreed to grace this country with his presence but only after he was promised a cup of tea and a chat with the Queen, leaving Brown a back-stage bit-player. Brown or Her Maj? A hard call. There's something fishy about the whole thing. 

Right up until the last minute the White House had been tight-lipped about whether Obama would even bother to turn up for the G20 London summit next month but now it seems a visit has been set-up and dutifully leaked to the press. 

But it is the two heads of state who will take centre stage and capture the global media coverage, leaving Brown a two-bit back-stage bit-player as the Obama drama unfolds.

Brown and Downing Street are obsessed and pinning their election hope on Obama's presence at the G20 London summit in a couple of weeks time. But even while Brown was being snubbed by Obama in Washington, officials would only confirm that the president's treasury secretary would attend G20. 

Now all that has suddenly changed. In a highly unusual move which goes against all protocol, the Queen is to give Obama a private “getting-to-know-you” audience. 

But this is the president of the United States yet Obama will not be on a State visit. If he was, then Buckingham Palace and Downing Street would have to pull out all the stops, the Cinderella carriage, State banquet, the royal works. 

One of those 'sources' has justified the odd arrangements for the odd couple: “There is a wish to do these things as discreetly as possible in the first instance.”

Discreet? This thing will go global, man. 

Air Force One, with the president and first laydee Michelle is due to touch down at Stansted, neatly avoiding massive Heathrow disruption and those pesky protesters. 

Then it's all aboard Marine Force One, to the US ambassador's pad in Regent's Park. April Fools' Day will see Obama travel aboard Ground Force One for the short hop to Buckingham Palace for that private chat. 

A quick how do you do at Brown's summit then the real work when the president flies off for a crucial meeting of Nato leaders in Strasbourg.

The White House and Obama were very careful, not to give Brown the full-blown podium treatment on his hyped-up tour, conscious of the fact that this was the blatant electioneering of a dead duck prime minister. 

Instead Brown has to make do with a quick and hurriedly arranged frosty photo-op. 

The White House had little interest in making a big deal of Brown's visit. Obama is a ruthless Chicago politician used to cutting deals in the Windy City, with an eye on the chance. Unlike his meetings with Blair, there was very little media mileage in getting all cosy with Brown. 

And that was probably true for the G20 London summit where Obama was in danger of being swamped in a sea of world leaders all trying to get attention on the world stage. 

The trade-off for a visit was a meeting with Her Maj which will get blanket media coverage on both sides of the Atlantic. 

Like the Washington meeting, this has all the hallmarks of a hastily arranged trip. But despite publicly playing down the visit, the Palace will roll out the red carpet for the first meeting between the head of state and the US President.

Brown was hoping some of the Obama shine and magic would rub off on him and the president's visit was supposed to be the crowning glory to boost his abyssal popularity ahead of the election. 

Now he's reduced to being a back-stage back-seat bit-player, as Obama rains on his parade and two hugely popular heads of state, on both sides of the Atlantic, take centre stage and Obama basks in the full-blown glare of the media attention. 

The Orange Party has pointed out before that when it comes to the US, Brown and Downing Street really do not get it. This is show business.


Thursday, March 05, 2009

Printing Money Is A Bad Roll Of The Dice

The government is pinning its hopes on a last, bad roll of the dice to dig itself out of its economic hell-hole, as the Bank of England starts the dangerous and disreputable gamble of 'printing money'. Spun as 'a good thing', this is a short term fix to get the government over the hill of the next election. The wheelbarrow of cash is teetering on a slippery slope. 

The Orange Party is in a long queue of people happy to give sound, realistic advice on how to get out of this hopeless mess without having to resort to borrowing billions and printing money, then spending it all like there is no tomorrow. But for the government of course, there is no tomorrow. 

Playing economic politics with the country and people's livelihoods is a despicable act, leaving others to pick up the tab and clear up the mess. 

The government is drinking at the last chance saloon. Printing money is an admission of failure which will get it off the hook, while a deluded Brown and his hapless chancellor lose control of the country's finances and their senses. 

Floundering in economic cloud cuckoo land, their only way out is a barrow full of banknotes, expanding the money supply with a boost of £75 billion now rising up to £150 billion later. 

The country is hopelessly in debt and borrowing is at a record high. But the government still wants to 'print money' to fund a reckless borrowing binge and ludicrous public spending spree. 

Any government which has to resort to 'printing money' is on its beam ends, with the threat of a new bout of inflation always lurking round the corner.

With the borrowing debt set to run into trillions of pounds, the abhorrent and disreputable 'printing money' option, euphemistically called 'quantitative easing'  is the only bullet left in its depleted armoury.   

Another last roll of the dice came from the Bank of England today with another cut in interest rates down to 0.5%, another blow for savers that won't make a jot of difference in the real world.

The Bank has already tried slashing the official rate with the most aggressive reduction in borrowing costs in 100 years to try to head off a full-blown economic depression.

Now the Bank is planning 'quantitative easing' but inflation will evaporate in coming months. In fact the new fear is deflation. The real economy in the real world of the RPI is already deflating. Printing wads of banknotes, though not literally, will just make matters worse. 

It is a short-sighted and short-term way to reflate but will help get the government of the hook until after the general election. 

In the last few months successive cuts to the bank rate failed to get the economy moving. For Brown and the government the solution is even more reckless, short-term fixes. 

It's clear the government hasn't a cat in hell's chance of funding its ridiculous borrowing binge but printing money is fraught with long-term dangers.

Anyone who takes a scant look at economic history can see that. 

Japan tried and failed. Printing money had disastrous effects in Weimar Germany in the Twenties, leading to rampant inflation, the Nazi Party and people needing wheelbarrows to carry the cash to buy a loaf of bread. 

In modern-day Zimbabwe, Mugabbe prints worthless banknotes. Debt ridden Latin-American countries became a laughing stock, as they tried the same trick. 

Brown's government will be the laughing stock of the world. 

Printing money is a recipe for disaster but it does boost the money supply and inject liquidity into the economy in the short-term. 

Slashing interest rates and printing more money is a quick fix which would release a flood of extra cash but there's no guarantee that would find its way through to the real economy as businesses and families tighten their belts and hang on to any cash to pay off debts.

Printing money is exactly the option used by Obama's new administration faced with a trillion dollar debt, to fool some of the people some of the time. The US Fed tried the trick but with little effect.

Even if it does do the job it could dilute the value of sterling and kick-off inflation, needing higher interest rates to control it. 

The hope is that when the Bank of England decides enough is enough, it can act independently from government interference to make the right decisions on economic not political grounds.

But the trick is knowing when enough is enough and that's a hopeless guessing game.

Lies, deceit and spin go hand in hand with the New Labour project but it's in the death throes of the disaster of the economy where the public feel it most. 

Soon a new government will have to confront the underlying problems in the economy. 

Even the combined might of ex-chancellor Ken Clarke and economic oracle Vince Cable will be hard-pressed to turn the country around.

Picture: Guys and Dolls, Luck Be A Lady Tonight. Illustration, Jody Hewgill


How Long Will Brown Stay In Blighty?

Brown Force One had hardly touched the tarmac before Downing Street was plotting the next prime ministerial far away-day jolly. Anyone would think he's trying to escape.  

Legging it and leaving hapless ministers floundering and flannelling around while his deputy spins for England is not the way to run the country. 

Swanning around saving the world is one thing but leaving a sinking ship rudderless is quite another. What's wrong with this country? Or maybe that's just the problem. Better out than in, as they say in Yorkshire. 

Fresh from his 'triumph' (according to the BBC) of his hyped-up Washington tour, next up are grand tours of Latin American and possibly the Far East, according to reliable sources with just the dates and times waiting to be inked in on the election grid. 

When was the last time the Supreme Leader made a major pronouncement on home or foreign policy, rather than droning on about global this and that, saving the planet from global disaster, global warming and mosquitoes? 

Maybe he is working to a grand master-plan, all meticulously mapped out, leaving the lackeys to do the running around with the minute detail but if he is he's keeping it close to his chest. 

Ministers jockeying for position in the post-Brown era are quite happy with the symbiotic relationship. 

The Orange Party has lost count of the number of times beleaguered Brown has fled the country but a quick skeg at the Downing Street website reveals all. It was bound to come in useful one day. 

There they all are, as bold as brass, including the quickie jaunts to cosy up his EU plans in Brussels, with obligatory pictures for the Downing Street album.

Even during a stay-at-home break for the G20 April 2 summit, Brown will be in London in body but certainly not in mind, as he's determined to take centre stage, and snuggle up to Obama if he bothers to turn up. 

The Orange Party has a couple of theories why he is more out than in and it's not just the air-miles.

Clearly he's taking a leaf out of Blair's book and getting in some pre-bookings for the world-wide lecture tour when he's booted out of office. 

He'll be hard pressed to compete with the Master who managed to squeeze in his first visit to Gaza and a Washington climate change summit (sic) all in the same breath. 

Or maybe he just can't face another Wednesday in the bear-pit of the commons, making a complete fool of himself trying to competing with Mr Angry for sound-bites. Making his excuses of another grand world tour is better than a sick note. 

It's understandable. Things are just getting on top of him back home. What with those pesky Royal Mail rebels, Hattie sticking the knife in and the whole country pestering him to say sorry.

Maybe it's not a bad thing. He should listen to the men in grey cloth-caps and "spend more time with his family". 

Picture: Brown gets a make-over before the Washington 'Audacity of Hype' tour


Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Hattie's Flop In Carry On Up The Commons

Brown back-stabber Harman's blundering has blown any chance of her leadership out of the water after telling a barefaced lie to parliament and getting a pummelling from both Thatcher boy Hague and Cable the economic oracle. 

With the illustrious leaders out of sight of the commons cameras it was the battle of the deputies over the dispatch box. But deputy party leader, Harriet Harman, had the most to lose. 

The Labour leadership contest and general election campaign are well underway, all rolled into one big melting pot, with Hattie the favourite to usurp the throne from beleaguered Brown. 

But holding your own in the cut and thrust of the battle of commons sound-bites is one thing. Telling porkies is quite another. 

That came in a commons question about Sir Fred the Shred's knighthood which Harman told the commons was for his 'charity work'. 

Now any fool knows what most of Brown's banking buddies were given their Ks and Ps for. And Harman is no fool. This was a disgraceful attempt at New Labour spin which is forever tarring the government. 

Later Harman issued a statement saying she made a mistake. The BBC  tried to explain away the whole thing as a bit of a 'gaffe':

"It was, in fact, the case that he received his honour for services to banking". 


Just an honest mistake gov. Not a sordid way to worm her way  out of answering an awkward question. Even accepting the gaff line,  in one fell swoop, the so-called wonder woman turned into blunder woman. 

Elsewhere Hague showed his mettle as the accomplished afternoon dinner speaker and useless shadow foreign secretary he is, as he jibed about how he was now "a modest deputy leader, but a loyal one". 

How the Tories cheered at that one. And how young pretender Miliband looked on, barley able to disguise his relish.

Cable had a chance to speak without the hand of Clegg, up his back. He had a good line: "Will there be a Harriet’s Law about clawing back pensions?" Nice one Vince, if a tad old hat. Stick to the day job teaching us economics.

It is Brown's stubborn refusal to accept some, any responsibility for the global economic mess that should have been a gift to Hague and Cable, thanks to chancellor Darling, willing  to try on the hair-shirt over who is to blame for the economic disaster.

The Downing Street narrative on that one is changing as the battle for the Labour leadership and the next general election get well and truly underway. But Brown seems to be stubbornly digging in his heels and digging his own grave. That one will not go away, no matter how hard McCavity Brown tries to hide.

Writing in The Times, Alice Miles today described Brown as: "Humiliated, hopeless, paralysed. Time to go". 

With Harman now a dead-duck and the despised Mandelson pulling the strings behind Brown's back, most members of the parliamentary Labour Party and the cabinet just want to be put out of their misery.

The sooner Cameron gets back the better. Commons politics is really quite boring without him. 


Gordon Doesn't Get It

Brown is set to deliver his 'carpe diem' speech of a lifetime to a joint Congress but no-one is listening. An icy wind is blowing across the US political landscape with questions about Obama's policies while his popularity remains at an all-time high. 

A frosty photo of Brown and Obama says it all. Deluded Brown just doesn't get it. He has neither the luxury of popularity nor policies. 

A recent NBC/WSJ poll shows starkly the gap between the personal popularity of the president and the popularity of his policies as the administration pretends the crises in the financial and housing sectors will go away, all on their own. 

And that shows potential dangers for Obama and the Democrats, which Brown seems blissfully unaware of. 

Obama now owns the recession. Echoing Brown, he believes massive spending and borrowing will strengthen the country, investing in health care, education, and energy. Like here, critics argue these massive programs will bankrupt the country.

But Democrats know they have a tight grip on Capitol Hill. As long as pet policies are pushed through, they are happy to go along until the wheels finally fall off the Obama bandwagon. Clinton is happy to go along for the ride. 

If the US  continues to borrow, at some point  the world won't be willing to lend, calling into question America's status as a financial safe-haven with higher interest rates the only option.

According to the poll, part of the reason why Obama's numbers remain high, despite these economic fears, is that the public doesn't blame the president for the current state of the economy.

Here Brown has no such luxury. But he's is sticking to his guns with the same tired old mantra blaming everything on global this and that and refusing to wear the hair-shirt and accept some responsibility for causing the mess in the first place. 

Both his chancellor and Brown's buddy Balls have changed the narrative and starting to come clean but those mixed messages coming from government just confuse the public. That's exactly what happens when a government is in terminal decline and collapse.

Alice Miles, writing in The Times, has already fired off a warning shot with a heartfelt plea echoed by the Orange Party yesterday: 

"Nothing will get better on Mr Brown's watch. Not even with the Pope on his side. Not even if he visits Mr Obama every week. Not even with a “partnership of purpose”. We need an election."

Yesterday's shambles finally saw Brown and a weary-looking Obama posing for a photo-op. But behind the scenes the Obama's aides continued to try to drum up support for his budget, arguing with the slick smooth message of hope that spending $3.6 trillion would prove responsible in the long run.

But while Brown addresses the joint Congress, listening politely while Twittering under the table, the US media has latched on to the return of the old warrior, McCain, who has suddenly found fire in his belly

Yesterday, he exploded: "I hope the American people will rise up - rise up!" he exhorted. "If it sounds like I'm angry, it's because I am."

Lashing into Obama's broken election promise to change from the wasteful, disgraceful, corrupting practice of earmark, pork-barrel spending, McCain said the pork-barrel bill is insulting to the American people.

"I want to freely acknowledge that Republicans were guilty of this as well," said the old Mac, back with full fury and wearing a hair-shirt on behalf of the GOP. 

Brown's Audacity of Hype Washington tour was carefully stage-managed to try  to ride on the back of Obama, hoping some of the magic will rub off on him ahead of an election. 

But while Obama continues to be Mr Popular, his policies are turning some into the Mr Angry of Cameron's Conservatives and voters here. 

Without popularity or policies which capture a public mood, Brown has been a dead man sleepwalking on Capitol Hill. 

Can the country really stand another 14 months of a politician obsessed with a general election and how to wrong-foot the Tories? 

The irony is Brown could probably win back a few votes if he would only act in the interests of the country and not of his own arrogant, self-serving interest. 

As Miles in The Times puts it: "Humiliated, hopeless, paralysed. Time to go." 

UPDATE: The 'speech' was finally made as part of a polite, formal, carefully staged-managed, ego-massaging event with Brown receiving exactly the same number of standing ovations - 19 - as Blair. What a coincidence!


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

What Will Brown Stick In His Family Album?

Downing Street aides have been rushing around like blue-arsed flies trying to spin away the president's snub to Brown's hyped-up tour. But Obama has enough on his plate without having to pose at a podium all statesman-like with a loser. 

Brown had flown all the way across the Atlantic for that big photo-op, only to be told the White House had kicked the idea into touch. 

Not surprising. He's not exactly Little Miss Sunshine. The Orange Party always though Brown's hyped-up Audacity of Hype tour would end up a damp squib. 

Brown's plane had hardly touched down at Andrews air base before it became clear any thought of a joint press conference was a no-no.

But that's a shame. After all, the Orange Party along with Downing Street were looking forward to an iconic image of the two great global leaders standing shoulder-to-shoulder with all the podium razzmatazz and flags behind them. 

Anything to replace that picture of the two of them when everything was coming up roses in the Downing Street garden. That was so last year. 

But as the US stock market crashes around Obama's ears, today  questions are being asked whether world leaders really have got a handle on this mess. Obama didn't cause the US recession but he has now taken ownership.

And that's not all on the president's mind today. The hot story in Washington is whether Obama is planning to cut a deal with Russia and backtrack over Bush's Euro-missile shield in return for a heavier Russian hand on Iran. 

These are big, real, global issues that occupy a president's mind and time. Not some Brownspeak bullshit setting out his global credentials as a global leader to save the world, this time with a new global New Deal for the global recession, before a global economic meltdown.

So the 'global deal' press conference was been demoted to what's been spun as a 'media event' but is in reality a 'pool spray'. Hack in the pack, Benedict Brogan, reckons it's a shambles.

A bunch of hand-picked hacks are shepherded into a room at the White House to ask a few planted questions and take pictures of the two men chatting away about the weather.

And they hadn't reckoned on the curse of Jonah travelling ahead of him, with Washington hit by a freak March snowstorm. 

Brown may be feeling glum but it was planned to have him photographed with his new best chum in the Rose Garden. But who wants to be photographed freezing their socks off, knee-deep in snow? 

The Brown people are pinning their hopes on a pre-election boost and presidential support for the 'new global deal' on the economy to pave the way for the Supreme Leader's next starring role at G20 London summit in April. 

So no doubt the love-bombing and brow-beating of the press pack will continue to try to get the spin right for the folks back home. 

The Orange Party has its own theory on why it's going pear-shaped and it is all down to the president's pressies. 

What do you give the man who has everything? Certainly not a pen-holder made out of old wood from an old ship and a book about that old war guy, Churchill. Coming over all Churchillian is not exactly Obama's idea of favourite bedtime reading. 

Obama is supposed to have Scottish roots so why not a bottle of finest Laphroaig malt whiskey. Or a kilt. Brown sure knows how to piss a guy off, big time. 

Meanwhile, back in the real world on both sides of the Atlantic,  real people are worried sick about unemployment, the recession and how to make ends meet. 

No-one in Washington gives a monkeys what Brown thinks. The sooner he legs it back home to call that election the better.

UPDATE 17.55: Stick it in the family - album. The media and Downing Street finally got a cold and chilly photograph - the rotten lot at the White House didn't even bother to light the fire! 


Monday, March 02, 2009

Brown's Audacity of Hype DC Tour

The media is being whipped up into a frenzy over Brown's state visit to Washington. But apart from new pictures for the Downing Street album, Brown's Audacity of Hype tour may turn into a damp squib.

Downing Street is staking everything on the trip, ahead of the last throw of the dice at April's G20 London summit. 

But Brown is a dead man sleepwalking into Capitol Hill, while his fag-end of a government collapses around his ears. 

As Tim Montgomerie over at consevativehome has been told by a US website editor - Brown is hardly box-office.

Brown's grubby paws are all over the financial mess facing the country, while he spins and blames everybody but himself. Congress knows that. Obama knows that. Everyone know that except the deluded Supreme Leader. Brown needs Obama far more than Obama needs Brown. 

No-one in Washington gives a monkeys what Brown thinks. After all Obama will be dealing with prime minister Cameron in less than 18 months time. 

The Orange Party can sit back with some smugness after posting speculation of Brown's Washington visit way back on February 6 - along with a likely agenda, which has become eerily close to the truth.

The new commander-in-chief wants only two things from Brown. More support and troops for his hopeless war in Afghanistan. And someone to back him up as he embarks on an unprecedented borrowing binge and spending spree. Who better suited for that than Brown. 

The president knows where to look for advice on the crisis facing America and that is not to Brown's bankrupt Britain. And he knows where to go for a global borrowing solution. Clinton has already been dispatched to sell her soul and suck up to China without a by-your-leave to human rights. 

As well as hoping some of the Obama magic will rub off on him, Brown is being received by Congress but only as a courtesy, the final flourish of the 'special relationship' now respun and rebranded as a 'partnership'. How very New Labour.

But Downing street is certainly in a spin as the global leader sets out his global credentials to save the world, this time with a new global New Deal for the global recession. Couple that with an anti-protectionism trade deal and it suits Obama down to the ground.

Western leaders are worried sick about a backlash back home after letting the debt bubble grow so big it burst. So they all agreed this was the fault of mysterious "global forces" and nothing to do with them. 

Bleating about protectionism and calling for 'global solutions' gets them off the hook. But more importantly, it keeps them in power. 

But Obama doesn't need to buy into all that. After all, that was Bush's burst bubble. Obama now owns the US recession depression but, unlike Brown, not the cause. 

Political strategists know Brown is drinking at the last chance saloon and this week's Washington visit, along with G20, are the last chances to woo voters for the general election. The Orange Party's money is still on June 4, but maybe that's just wishful thinking. 

Which ever way you look at it, it's difficult see what Brown and Obama could actually announce that would suddenly and miraculously transform Brown into Mr Popular. 

So the question remains just what will Brown have to say when he addresses Congress? 

Obama showed he had guts when an appointment went pear-shaped, readily admitting "I've screwed up". Fraser Nelson has already written Brown's speech and posted a copy in the News of the Screws, with the opening line: "Mr President.. I’ve screwed up". 

No doubt the hardened core of UK journalists and hangers-on despatched to cover the trip will be love-bombed and brow-beaten by Downing Street aides to write something nice and positive for the folks back home. The Orange Party suggests keeping an eye on The Washington Post for the real low down on the how-down.

But the Orange Party always looks on the bright side of life. The carefully staged photo-op will bring with it a new set of pictures. Everyone has got thoroughly fed up using the same tired smiley shot of Brown and Obama in the Downing Street garden - that was so last year.

As Brown was due to fly out today, Washington was in the grips of a freak March snowstorm. Could this be the curse of Jonah?