Gordon Brown seems to have lost his bounce. And as his popularity dwindles and anger at the impact of spiralling recession grows, he hopes that hosting the G20 meeting of world leaders will help to boost his credibility and status.
Brown has invited leaders of the world’s most powerful countries to get together in the Excel centre in east London at the beginning of April in yet another attempt to thrash out a way to shore up a collapsing global economy.
The G20 will be met by a coalition of more than 65 organisations, including trade unions, anti-poverty groups and environmental campaigns, holding mass protests under the banner of Put People First to demand action over jobs, justice and climate change.
There are many problems with the methods and goals of the G20 leaders – particularly those at the very top of the pile.
Economists and academics have released numerous pre-G20 bulletins to leaders, stressing the need for “international cooperation and coordination in the face of the current economic situation”.
Brown has joined other European leaders in lecturing heads of state about the evils of protectionism.
But not everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet. US president Barack Obama sent shockwaves around the world with the “Buy American” clause in his rescue package for the US economy. Several other states have recently raised trade barriers.
But leaders are torn between competing priorities. Each nation state is attempting to save its own domestic economy. Government after government has bailed out banks and guaranteed toxic debts.
But every state is tied into the wider global economy and governments are also trying to preserve their place in the international markets.
When the G20 leaders met in November last year there was plenty of talk but decisions were few and far between.
Every plan put together by world leaders has so far failed to stem the growing crisis.
And it is ordinary people across the globe who are paying the price for an economic crisis not of their making – through job losses, wage freezes, and economic devastation.
But people are fighting back. There have been strikes and protests across the world. In Britain the Put People First demonstration on 28 March will be a focus for opposition to job losses, pay cuts, inequality and the destruction of the planet.
The protest is backed by the TUC and by a coalition of anti-poverty and environmental charities and campaign groups.
Every major union is calling on its members to attend the demonstration. This gives every trade union member a chance to organise a delegation from their workplace to join the protests.
One sign of the potential of this coalition was the 600-strong Six Billion Ways political festival in east London last weekend, which was organised as part of the run up to the Put People First demonstrations.
Many organisations, including War on Want, helped to organise the day. It brought a diverse audience together to discuss topics such as climate justice and alternatives to global finance and trade.
The Stop the War Coalition is also organising protests at the G20 meeting.
Many anti-war protesters will travel on from the G20 demonstrations to the anti-Nato protests in Strasbourg.
Obama will use Nato’s 60th anniversary parade in Strasbourg to attempt to persuade other countries to send more troops to Afghanistan, and like the G20 meetings, it will be a vital opportunity for all workers, students and campaigners to say that this is not in our name.
The US and its allies are getting sucked deeper into the Afghanistan mire. Some 48 foreign troops have died in the first two months of this year, 12 of them British soldiers.
Now Obama wants to throw in another 17,000 US soldiers, and he wants Brown to boost the numbers of British troops. Meanwhile Afghanistan continues to spiral into deep misery.
Opposition to the occupation is growing. After the troops “surge” was announced, Shukria Barakzai, one of the few Afghan women MPs, demanded the US “send us 30,000 scholars instead. Or 30,000 engineers. But don’t send more troops – it will just bring more violence.”