Friday, 24 May 2013


The Conservative party appears to want to fight a civil war.

I think this analysis is interesting;

Mr Ganesh makes an interesting point; that the modernizers in the Conservative party were right, that the reforms were not enough. He suggests that by making austerity such an integral part of the election campaign the Conservatives did the right thing in the medium term, but that it has hurt them in the polls.

I disagree.

They did play up the tough stance they were going to take.  Budgets were to be "slashed", "swingeing cuts", blood curdling calls for swinging and axe, etc.

I didn't understand it at the time, and I still don't. Because there have never been any plans to do anything as radical as that. The budgets that Osborne wrote kept spending flat in real terms, they just didn't increase at the boom era rate that Labour had been planning, and hoped to close the budget deficit when tax income increased during the recovery.

That plan has failed.

The euro crisis has delayed the recovery, there has been no rise in tax revenues, and we therefore still have a large budget deficit.

Now they have a terrible mismatch between the rhetoric and the reality. The public believe that spending has been brutally cut, yet the reality is that it is higher in real terms than two years ago.

Every piece of negative economic data is evidence that the cuts have hurt the economy, and every time public services don't live up to expectation it can be blamed on cuts to their budgets.

The problem is that Osborne has left the Conservatives without any achievement for all of this, the budget deficit is still gaping. It is absolutely the worst of all worlds, they have the reputational damage of being the party to have slashed services, but are unable to claim any particular achievement.

I think the political analysis of the party's reform is still being viewed through a 'third way' Blairite prism. That the party that sits on the centre ground wins the most votes, because they win the votes on their side plus the centre they now occupy. I have a strong hunch that this actually doesn't work for the Conservative party. I don't think the Tory brand is popular enough to actually win under those conditions.

If you ran an election with identical personalities and policies for both the Labour and Conservative party, I think Labour would win a hefty victory. For the Conservative party to win an election, they'll need to actually want to change the country, rather than just administer it with a New Labour + 1degree to the right policy booklet.

Osborne has been the biggest let down. His budgets have been tremendously Brownite, tweaking, tampering and trying to score headline victories without really doing much. They just aren't likeable enough to win like that.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Why Austerity?

AusterityUK and AusterityEU are two different animals.

They often get lumped together although they are very different.

Peripherals really only have a few choices;
1) "austerity" - where they show some budget constraint and agree to try to close their budget deficit in the short to medium term, with the implicit financial support of Germany and support of their banking system from EU institutions.
2) default/restructuring with or without euro exit
3) euro exit and devaluation (which is a de facto default)

To be clear, a country like Spain or Italy already have a bond market strike. 

The market is not willing to loan money to these countries without there being implicit backstops and ECB support. 

Germany allows ECB and EU support under the condition that there is fiscal constraint. People can argue whether Germany's policy is correct or not, but unless you pay taxes in Germany and are a voter you really have little right to comment.

Many commentators say austerity is failing, and that peripherals should take a different course. That is easy to say, but meaningless.

They refuse to be explicit on the alternative given the constraints. ie. closed bond markets and German finance on conditions of restraint. If politically they are unwilling to leave the euro or restructure, then there really is no other option.

To argue that Germany should agree to fiscal transfers regardless is either naive or dishonest. For fiscal transfers to have any legitimacy there has to be democratic support in both countries. It also means giving up fiscal sovereignty. 

Unless peripherals are willing to have their budgets agreed at an EU level and impose reforms to bring them into line with Germany then  pleading for transfers without conditions is really are just pie in the sky/begging.

Peripheral politicians need to be bold and take responsibility. Blaming Germany and the markets while they have depression level unemployment is feeble. They need to give up fiscal sovereignty or leave the euro.