The G20 is a suspiciously round number. To qualify as a G7 nation, you must both have a large economy and be a liberal democracy – hence Russia’s expulsion several years ago.
The G20 on the other hand is comprised of 19 nations plus the EU. “Everybody wants the smallest possible group that includes them,” was Barack Obama’s pithy retort to complaints about the guest list.
A wider membership with more relaxed rules of entry – you are allowed to repress your own people/invade other nations – makes for trickier conversations. It is also how you get Joe Biden and Xi Jinping in the same room.
The two leaders met today in person for the first time since Biden took office and there was little shortage of discussion topics. Not only what a number of commentators describe as Beijing’s tacit support of Russia’s war, but also climate change, Taiwan, human rights and trade.
Of course, if you’re Rishi Sunak, your job is more of an introduction to fellow world leaders. But the situation back home is never far away. Not only minor annoyances such as having to defend the personal behaviour of yet another minister, this time Dominic Raab, with another set of carefully chosen words. But he also must be wondering what his chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, is up to back home.
That’s the thing about being prime minister. There are lot more hands to shake and smiles to fake. Which is fine if you like that sort of thing. The point is, you can’t just sit in your bunker, costing various policies.
Elsewhere in the paper, the Autumn Statement hasn’t even happened yet and the backlash is underway. First on taxes, now on spending cuts. Kit Malthouse, a former (for seven weeks but still, it goes on LinkedIn) education secretary signed a letter alongside two dozen colleagues which called cuts to education “indefensible”.
As our Education Editor Anna Davis reports, London schools are facing more than £188m in cuts to their spending power, equating to £177 less per pupil next year according to data from the School Cuts campaign.
The reality is that while health spending has been relatively protected in the last decade (anyone remember this poster from the 2010 general election campaign?), education has faced a squeeze.
Figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies show that prior to the pandemic, total spending on education in the UK stood at £104bn or 4.4% of national income. A lot, sure, but that is 8% lower than in 2010-11, when it represented 5.6% of national income.
Indeed, school spending per pupil in England fell by 9% in real terms between 2009–10 and 2019–20 – the largest cut in over 40 years. This is the challenging context for all manner of public services bracing themselves for planned reductions this week.
In the comment pages, Rob Rinder declares he loves nothing more than knowing nothing about our judges’ politics. While on the centenary of the first broadcast radio programme on the BBC, Melanie McDonagh says we should unleash Auntie’s treasure trove of archive wonders.
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