Monday 6 July 2015

Labour Leadership Candidates on the Greek Referendum

Yesterday's vote in Greece was a momentous occasion. Almost two thirds of a people, many with politics far removed from that of its leadership, said no to demands for more austerity from the well heeled bureaucrats of the IMF and European Central Bank, and the ministers of the European Commission. It won't be until tomorrow that we'll know what the troika are going to do in response. Reasoned heads would suggest a debt write down and allowing Greece space to grow its economy to meet its obligations. This, after all, is the oh-so radical demand Syriza are pushing - it's hardly all power to the Soviets combined with the socialisation of private property. Yet as past behaviour indicates, the troika are anything but reasoned.

Moving from the streets of Athens and the committee rooms of Brussels, how has this news been received by British parliamentarians? George Osborne has pretty much shrugged it off. Direct British bank exposure to Greece is only £10bn, though of course in the our interconnected world of toxic financial instruments ostensibly trading as assets who can say what the real risk is? Nevertheless, the government stands ready to print money to protect the banks economy should the need arise. Labour's response to the referendum outcome is not too dissimilar. However, Chris Leslie, goes on to say "Eurozone countries need to do their best to offer the chance for fresh negotiations. And the Greek government must face up to its responsibilities for stronger governance and economic reform." Perhaps if the troika stopped force feeding debt to Greece while hamstringing its ability to help itself, then I'm sure the Greek government would broadly welcome the acting shadow chancellor's sage advice.

For Labour Party people who look to their leaders for a political lead, what then have each of our leadership candidate got to say about yesterday's hugely significant event?

For Liz Kendall, it's not a lot. We learn that 150 councillors are signed up to her campaign, and has caved to the Tories' utterly abysmal English Votes for English Laws nonsense. On her Twitter feed there's a retweet of Duncan Weldon's musings, but that's your lot.

Over to Andy Burnham's gaff and it's pretty much the same. While it is always nice to see Sally Lindsay doing Labour things, it's just endorsement, endorsement, endorsement. Never mind the events in Greece, what if I wanted to know about Andy's policy positions? I've said it about Liz Kendall before, I might not like what she says but it's easy to find out what she stands for without having to trawl the web for policy snippets. There's nothing on his Twitter feed either. Ho-hum.

What about Yvette Cooper? As a trained economist, has she got something to say about the Greek crisis? There's something. Written before the outcome of the referendum became known, she writes that the situation remains pregnant with crisis regardless of the verdict. She argues "Now that this failure risks reaping instability across Europe including here, we need big voices in Europe to persuade both Germany and Greece - and the whole of the Eurozone - that they need to agree an achievable long term plan that will actually get the Greek economy growing again rather than repeatedly putting it into reverse. Without growth any economy will struggle to pay its debts down." Exactly. I'm also buoyed to see Yvette using the occasion to attack the Tories. She notes "The honest broker in that situation ought to be Britain. We are a major European economy, who can play a leading role and we are removed from the immediate negotiations because we are rightly not a member of the Eurozone. But instead our Government has taken a passive approach that is letting Britain's interests down." In other words, Dave and Osborne are striking an isolationist course in the hope the crisis will leave Britain alone and go away. Yvette is right, of course. If Dave was clever, offering its services as a neutral party in the Eurozone dispute might allow him to accrue some political capital that can be expended in return for treaty change concessions. But then Dave is anything but clever.

Does the final challenger have anything to say? As you might expect, Jeremy Corbyn puts his response to the Greek referendum in more forthright tones. As he put it, "Democracy has spoken in Greece. The people must rule, not the financial markets." Quite right. While hoping for more, seeing as Jez has been on Greek solidarity demos and is due to speak outside the Greek embassy in London tonight, there's little more that needs to be said.

Before undertaking this brief exercise, I was not surprised Jeremy - given his activist background - put out a statement. Nor was I about Yvette. Her presence in the leadership campaign so far has been a touch understated, but quietly formidable. Given her range of experience across most government departments and familiarity with economics, for her not to have commented and put forward a straight centre left position (which is miles better than the Chris Leslie press release), well, that would have been a strange occurrence indeed. It reflects badly on Andy and reinforces the image of him being a one-trick pony. As for Liz, what's the point of coming across as a fresh start if you don't have anything to say about *the* crucial issue facing the European Union and the economies of its member states?

A leader is supposed to lead. Jeremy and Yvette have staked out their positions on an issue of enormous import. It's a credit to their political nous and strength as politicians. Liz and Andy haven't, and says pretty much the opposite about them.


Matty said...

There is more comment on Greece from the candidates here:

Andy actually starts off better than Yvette but screws up right at the end.

BCFG said...

Have you not yet worked out that the centre left are the enemy of progress in Europe? The traditional Social democratic parties have been just as antagonistic to Syriza and Greece as the right and in some cases more so.

In Greece itself the only way Syriza could come to the fore was by the disintegration of the centre left. The biggest obstacle to Podemos making a breakthrough is the Spanish centre left.

Any leftist who is still part of the centre left and holding out any illusions about it are enemies of progress and enemies of the left.

And don't give me Jeremy Corbyn.

Nick Wright said...

"Almost two thirds of a people, many with politics far removed from that of its leadership, said no to demands for more austerity from the well heeled bureaucrats of the IMF and European Central Bank, and the ministers of the European Commission."

Hmm. Not quite two thirds of a people rather more like two thirds of 61.3% of a people.

In contradiction to the obviously faked opinion polls – which suggested that the Yes campaign fronted by the main pro EU parties (ND and Pasok) and with the support of Potami and the Democratic Left were closing the gap and would possibly win the great majority of those Greeks who participated in the referendum, voted no.

Syriza, Anel and Golden Dawn all called for a no vote.

The KKE called for active abstention, blank or spoilt ballots and 5.8 per cent were recorded as abstentions or invalid.

Turnout was 61.3%. Thus about half the population either did not vote or actively abstained. Of the 55.3 per cent of the population who did vote 61.3 per cent voted ‘no’ and 38.7 per cent yes.