Opinionomics | 17 April 2012

Must-read comment and analysis. Featuring minimum taxes and money taxes.

1. Inflation shows why it pays to follow Bank of England actions not words (Telegraph)

Ian Cowie points out that the Bank of England's actions – how it runs its pension fund, for instance – explain its attitudes to inflation far better than its words.

2. The Buffett Rule: Right Goal, Wrong Tool (New York Times)

Leonard E. Burman argues that the "Buffett rule" (and, to a certain extent, Osborne's tycoon tax) is a good policy goal, but would be better achieved by tightening loopholes directly

3. Export-led growth is so damn difficult (ToUChstone)

Richard Exell points out how bad our trade deficit is.

4. The buck shrinks here (Economist | Free Exchange)

Ryan Avent takes issue with Matt Yglesias' plan to, in effect, tax money to prevent depressions. His concern isn't with the political angle of it, but the economic.

5. "The Migration Myth" (Economist's View)

Mark Thoma collates some interesting writing on migration.

Argentine president Kirchner holds a sample of petroleum from the fields of renationalised oil company YPF. Credit: Getty

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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Who will win in Manchester Gorton?

Will Labour lose in Manchester Gorton?

The death of Gerald Kaufman will trigger a by-election in his Manchester Gorton seat, which has been Labour-held since 1935.

Coming so soon after the disappointing results in Copeland – where the seat was lost to the Tories – and Stoke – where the party lost vote share – some overly excitable commentators are talking up the possibility of an upset in the Manchester seat.

But Gorton is very different to Stoke-on-Trent and to Copeland. The Labour lead is 56 points, compared to 16.5 points in Stoke-on-Trent and 6.5 points in Copeland. (As I’ve written before and will doubtless write again, it’s much more instructive to talk about vote share rather than vote numbers in British elections. Most of the country tends to vote in the same way even if they vote at different volumes.)

That 47 per cent of the seat's residents come from a non-white background and that the Labour party holds every council seat in the constituency only adds to the party's strong position here. 

But that doesn’t mean that there is no interest to be had in the contest at all. That the seat voted heavily to remain in the European Union – around 65 per cent according to Chris Hanretty’s estimates – will provide a glimmer of hope to the Liberal Democrats that they can finish a strong second, as they did consistently from 1992 to 2010, before slumping to fifth in 2015.

How they do in second place will inform how jittery Labour MPs with smaller majorities and a history of Liberal Democrat activity are about Labour’s embrace of Brexit.

They also have a narrow chance of becoming competitive should Labour’s selection turn acrimonious. The seat has been in special measures since 2004, which means the selection will be run by the party’s national executive committee, though several local candidates are tipped to run, with Afzal Khan,  a local MEP, and Julie Reid, a local councillor, both expected to run for the vacant seats.

It’s highly unlikely but if the selection occurs in a way that irritates the local party or provokes serious local in-fighting, you can just about see how the Liberal Democrats give everyone a surprise. But it’s about as likely as the United States men landing on Mars any time soon – plausible, but far-fetched. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.