Opinionomics | 19 April 2012

Must-read comment and analysis. Featuring the drug trade, masters of the universe, and crippling aus

1. Latin America: A toxic trade (Finanical Times)

While many of the region’s economies are booming, the battle against illegal drugs cartels is placing severe strain on resources and institutions, write John Paul Rathbone and Adam Thomson

2. Summers and Rubin, remorseless deregulators (Reuters)

Felix Salmon writes about the "almost pathological" failure of the old masters of the universe to accept that deregulation might have gone too far.

3. Will the real employment minister please stand up? (Market Square)

Ian Mulheirn argues that the chancellor, not the employment minister, is the only person who can actually do anything about unemployment, arguing along the same lines as I did yesterday.

4. To Thrive, Euro Countries Must Cut Welfare State (Bloomberg View)

Fredrik Erixon argues in favour of massive austerity.

5. IMF telethon: $400bn for economies in need (Independent)

Christine Lagarde is hosting the biggest fundraiser of the year. The recipients will include eurozone nations, and the US won't be giving anything, writes Stephen Foley

The space shuttle Discovery lands in Washington, to be put in the Smithsonian Museum. 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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Geoffrey Howe dies, aged 88

Howe was Margaret Thatcher's longest serving Cabinet minister – and the man credited with precipitating her downfall.

The former Conservative chancellor Lord Howe, a key figure in the Thatcher government, has died of a suspected heart attack, his family has said. He was 88.

Geoffrey Howe was the longest-serving member of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, playing a key role in both her government and her downfall. Born in Port Talbot in 1926, he began his career as a lawyer, and was first elected to parliament in 1964, but lost his seat just 18 months later.

Returning as MP for Reigate in the Conservative election victory of 1970, he served in the government of Edward Heath, first as Solicitor General for England & Wales, then as a Minister of State for Trade. When Margaret Thatcher became opposition leader in 1975, she named Howe as her shadow chancellor.

He retained this brief when the party returned to government in 1979. In the controversial budget of 1981, he outlined a radical monetarist programme, abandoning then-mainstream economic thinking by attempting to rapidly tackle the deficit at a time of recession and unemployment. Following the 1983 election, he was appointed as foreign secretary, in which post he negotiated the return of Hong Kong to China.

In 1989, Thatcher demoted Howe to the position of leader of the house and deputy prime minister. And on 1 November 1990, following disagreements over Britain's relationship with Europe, he resigned from the Cabinet altogether. 

Twelve days later, in a powerful speech explaining his resignation, he attacked the prime minister's attitude to Brussels, and called on his former colleagues to "consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long".

Labour Chancellor Denis Healey once described an attack from Howe as "like being savaged by a dead sheep" - but his resignation speech is widely credited for triggering the process that led to Thatcher's downfall. Nine days later, her premiership was over.

Howe retired from the Commons in 1992, and was made a life peer as Baron Howe of Aberavon. He later said that his resignation speech "was not intended as a challenge, it was intended as a way of summarising the importance of Europe". 

Nonetheless, he added: "I am sure that, without [Thatcher's] resignation, we would not have won the 1992 election... If there had been a Labour government from 1992 onwards, New Labour would never have been born."

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.