26 SEPTEMBER 1998, Page 28

To the woods with Tony

NEVER fear, Tony's here. The Prime Min- ister wants to see a new Bretton Woods agreement for the new millennium. The old one laid the foundations of the Internation- al Monetary Fund and World Bank, but that was half a century ago, which in his rhetoric means that they are out of date and must be modernised. What would he like everybody to agree on, this time? Who should draw the blueprint? What became of what's-his-name — oh' yes, of course, John Maynard Keynes — who drew the last one? Keynes said that his Fund was really a bank, just as the World Bank was a fund. Should it behave more like a bank and turn down bad risks like Russia? Or less like a bank, and forgive its debtors? Don't bother the Prime Minister with details like these. This style of policy-making (as I was saying last week) was formulated by Sir Humphrey Appleby: something must be done, so let's think of something and then we can say that we did it. Thinking about it is more like hard work.