Page last updated at 16:49 GMT, Friday, 12 December 2008

Martha Kearney's week

Tory MPs punched the air after Mr Brown's comments

By Martha Kearney
Presenter, BBC Radio 4's World at One

If Gordon Brown had made a slip of the tongue in the honeymoon days of his early leadership, I doubt whether we would have paid much attention.

But in the current climate the phrase "we saved the world" has the whiff of hubris about it.

The Conservatives have been privately nervous about Gordon Brown's revival, his apparent new stature on the world stage, the praise from Nobel prize laureates.

So Wednesday's gaffe at prime minster's questions was a gift, a phrase to repeat again and again and which will seem only too ironic as the recession gets worse.

The words will resonate if they are seen to reveal a deeper truth just as Margaret Thatcher's slip "we are a grandmother" was taken to reflect her increasingly regal approach to office.

But has the Brown plan saved the world "banking" system as the PM hastily amended his words to say?

'Crazed Keynsianism'

The recapitalisation plan stopped the banks from crashing - but the impact of the credit crunch is still being felt by businesses and people wanting to buy homes.

The government is under pressure to make the banks lend more freely in return for the 37bn made available.

Then there is part B of the economic plan - the fiscal stimulus or "crazed Keynsianism" as the German finance minister Peer Steinbruck described it this week.

The President of the European Central bank was critical too though in a far more guarded way of countries with a large budget deficit which are borrowing heavily now.

A fortnight ago the French Finance minister Christine Lagarde told the World at One that she doubted whether VAT cuts would make any difference given that shops were discounting so heavily.

All this matters because Gordon Brown's best line of defence is that the crisis is a global one and that his solution has been adopted around the world.

If other countries are critical of Britain both for being too exposed in terms of debt and for borrowing further, then he begins to look more vulnerable politically.

But a poll this week did give him and Alistair Darling an increased lead in economic leadership with the Conservatives' overall lead smaller than they would like.

Away from Westminster this week, George Bush and I were both honoured at the same award ceremony.

This was at the Plain English Awards.

The World at One received the prize for best national radio programme.

I was rather relieved not to be getting the same prize as George Bush as he (in absentio) was given the Golden Foot in Mouth award with too many examples to mention. I wonder who will win next year?

After this week's slip of the tongue, perhaps a certain Gordon Brown stands a good chance. Do let me know your own favourite political gaffes.

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