Head of campaigns Justin Forsyth is co-ordinating the comms strategy as the PM’s team increasingly views the event – to be attended by Barack Obama – as its last chance to bolster Brown’s reputation.
One source with good links to Downing Street said: ‘They are pinning a lot of hopes on the G20 Summit but whether any magic dust will really rub off on Gordon is another question.’
A Downing Street insider said: ‘Justin Forsyth is lead-ing on it because he was involved in the G8 Summit in Gleaneagles in July 2005. The Government is trying to look at a broader comms strategy. There is the sense that Brown’s team is not very experienced at these type of events and Gleneagles was seen as a benchmark.’
As Brown returns from the US following this week’s meeting with Obama and his address at the US Congress, his Downing Street media team is planning to use April’s summit in London to vindicate the PM’s plan for an economic stimulus while achieving some much-needed ‘Obama bounce’. If a deal is signed that is favourable to Brown while aligning him with Obama, the media team will come under enormous pressure to see it reported favourably.
Former Ministry of Defence comms chief James Clark, now director of comms at BearingPoint, said of the G20: ‘It is hugely significant. It is among the biggest things Brown has done. He sees it as his potential salvation. It is the only thing he wants to talk about and the only thing the Cabinet Office wants to talk about inside Government.’
But Bell Pottinger Public Affairs chairman Peter Bingle remained sceptical: ‘The public will not change their view of him because of a photo opportunity with Obama. I think it is a lost cause.’
Meanwhile, the Conservatives could attempt to draw attention to the idea that Brown is trying to salvage his reputation.
Brown’s press handler Michael Dugher claimed any suggestion the PM was viewing the G20 as his salvation was ‘unmitigated bollocks’. But he admitted: ‘It is a very important summit and a large part of what he is trying to do.’
2 April G20 Summit due to begin at the London ExCel
4 March Brown addresses joint session of US Congress
3 March At their first meeting, Brown and Obama speak to the press. Obama pledges to strengthen the ‘special relationship’ with Britain
5 February Brown suffers embarrassment in media because Obama met with Tony Blair before himself
November 2008 London summit announced, following first meeting of 20 world leaders in Washington
2,000 Journalists set to attend the G20 Summit
40 Countries the FCO is talking with in run-up to summit
£200bn Cost of latest US government programme to spur lending
1,000 Points lost on FTSE since the beginning of the year
£60k Estimated cost of recession to each UK household