“Events, dear boy, events”. Harold Macmillan's worldly conclusion on what really determines political life may be echoing through the corridors of the Gleneagles Hotel next week when the G8 leaders meet to put the world to rights. These meetings began in 1975 when the French government suggested a meeting to discuss the oil crisis of the time; afterwards there was a general feeling that such an annual get-together provided a useful opportunity for an informal exchange of views at the highest level. Subsequently, of course, the G8 get-togethers have provided a useful focus for protest by non government organisations who find it very convenient that all the politicians they believe are ruining the world should be assembed at one time in one place. Generally speaking it has not been the practice of the host country to propose an action agenda; rather the idea has been to have a general talk about new trends in the world and to agree in advance through extensive consultation what the final communique would have to say on the chosen issues. This year, however, it is different. Tony Blair decided to try to get agreement on action in two important but contentious areas; increased aid to Africa and global warming. It is not surprising, therefore, that the communiques are still being drafted and redrafted to try to get some degree of unanimity before the leaders actually disagree in front of each other. At the same time Harold Macmillan's “events” are piling up, as they have a habit of doing. If the inaugural G8 meeting met specifically to discuss a mere doubling in the cost of oil, they must surely want to talk about its present sky-high price, while the looming World Trade talks would also benefit from informal discussion. Mr Blair is trying to push the G8 meeting into decisions that would normally be arrived at after months, if not years, of discussion in other established forums. Not all the G8 members like this. And on global warming he will even have difficulty in getting President Bush to accept the climate change is not a natural phenomenon.


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