4 OCTOBER 1997, Page 28

• diplomatic bags

FINANCIAL diplomacy is keeping Gordon Brown busy. He reached Brighton this week by way of Mondorf-les-Bains, Mauri- tius, Madagascar, Johannesburg, Bangkok and Hong Kong, where one of his ideas got an honourable mention in an IMF commu- niqué. (Take a gold star, Gordon.) Now he has to get ready to scale summits and pre- pare for the six momentous months next year when Britain holds the European pres- idency. He will welcome Europe's finance ministers to York, where they will see the Minster and the Railway Museum and draw up a list of those whose countries qualify for the single currency. Could their host really tell them that the prospect under- whelmed him? Could he say, as the Gover- nor of the Bank of England has been say- ing, that this commitment is supposed to be for ever, that forever is a long time and that he can't see what the hurry is? Would that be diplomatic? In a government that prides itself on its showmanship, and will have six months to show off on the European stage, would he find a place as a kamikaze party- pooper? Surely not. He will say that this is a great European enterprise and that we live in Europe and trade there and belong there, and so on. That is what financial diplomacy does for chancellors. It does for most of them, in the end.