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Next week may mark the passing of that era as Barack Obama comes to London to agree to American participation in a new global order in which China takes its rightful place and markets bow before the power of democracy. That, at least, is the hope beating inside a tense Downing Street this weekend. Whatever happens on 2 April at the soulless ExCeL building in Docklands it will be an extraordinary few days in the capital.
Obama, accompanied by his wife Michelle, will hold four bilateral meetings, including his first with Russia, the country with which he has pledged to press the reset button. The Queen will host a reception. Jamie Oliver will cook a budget British meal for the world leaders in Downing Street. Officials will quarrel through the night over the wording of the world leaders' global new deal. Protesters may try to wreck the Square Mile. For Brown himself, it represents an extraordinary moment. For two days this complex man will be the world's host and global puppeteer....
...But in the wake of the world recession, Brown and the French president Nicolas Sarkozy picked up an idea promoted for years by the Canadian finance minister, Paul Martin, for the G20 to meet at heads of government level.
Sarkozy and Brown persuaded a willing George Bush to host a meeting of world leaders from the G20 in Washington in November. Brown, aware that Britain was chairing the G20 this year, saw a chance to lead the planet in forging a new world order, just as Britain had been pivotal in the formation of Bretton Woods after the second world war.