London. The Group of Eight (G8) Finance ministers, after meeting for a second day in London, reached a tentative agreement to forgive 100% of the debt owed by 18 countries. They have also agreed in principle to forgive all credit card debt for Gordon Brown, whose attempt to pick up lunch on Saturday for all 8 of the ministers at restaurant Sketch was foiled when his VISA card was rejected.
On Friday the prospects for an accord on debt relief were buoyed when Brown took the U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow out for a few drinks after the day's meetings had concluded. Mr. Brown bought four rounds and his card was accepted without incident. Members of the Government, including the Prime Minister, were "extremely concerned" after seeing the Chancellor trot off with Snow at the end of the day. Mr. Brown has been on record referring to Mr. Snow "a stupid git" and more recently "a shagged-out slaphead" but the evening came to a conclusion without incident, as Mr. Brown and Mr. Snow staggered arm-in-arm back to 11 Downing Street shortly before midnight.
On Saturday, Mr. Snow appeared before the international press shortly after the final meetings had ended, and the ministers returned from lunch. "A real milestone has been reached," said Snow. "Ohh God I'm sick... I'm sorry," said Snow. This reporter thinks he nearly lost his lunch (which was reportedly two bangers) right then and there. After a brief moment he composed himself and then continued. "OK. Anyway, as I was saying, a real milestone has been reached. Lifting the debt burden from the poorest countries in the world brightens their prospects enormously. This is an achievement of historic proportions. And I want to add that the 18 nations are not the only ones having credit trouble-it can happen to the best of us. That is why I've endorsed the forgiveness of Mr. Brown's credit card debts. He has been generous to a fault, buying lunch on both days that I've been here, and not just for me, I might add."
After Snow's speech, the current president of the G8, Mr. Blair, was asked to comment on the day's historic progress. "The day's progress? Quite good. But let me also say this: I can assure the British People that Gordon Brown has my utmost respect, and runs the financial business of this country with the highest competence, his personal spending habits notwithstanding. If he has any fault, it is his good nature, and his generosity to the British People. He always pulls his card out first at lunch when the check arrives, and ministerial colleagues and others have learned to let him have his way."
Whitehall insiders say Mr. Brown is famous for the huge pile of unopened mail and bills that occupies the center of his desk at #11-but the final straw evidently was the recent campaign ahead of the General Election. Mr. Brown and Mr. Blair travelled together almost exclusively, and Mr. Blair is said to have "forgotten his billfold" on many occasions, thus leaving the Chancellor with enormous food and lodging expenses.
In addition to the forgiveness of Mr. Brown's debt, the ministers discussed other issues on Saturday, including the effects of high oil prices on the World's economy, U.S. budget deficits, reform of Japan's finance sector, and lackluster economic growth throughout Europe.