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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PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn turns "the nasty party" back on Theresa May

The Labour leader exploited Conservative splits over disability benefits.

It didn't take long for Theresa May to herald the Conservatives' Copeland by-election victory at PMQs (and one couldn't blame her). But Jeremy Corbyn swiftly brought her down to earth. The Labour leader denounced the government for "sneaking out" its decision to overrule a court judgement calling for Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) to be extended to those with severe mental health problems.

Rather than merely expressing his own outrage, Corbyn drew on that of others. He smartly quoted Tory backbencher Heidi Allen, one of the tax credit rebels, who has called on May to "think agan" and "honour" the court's rulings. The Prime Minister protested that the government was merely returning PIPs to their "original intention" and was already spending more than ever on those with mental health conditions. But Corbyn had more ammunition, denouncing Conservative policy chair George Freeman for his suggestion that those "taking pills" for anxiety aren't "really disabled". After May branded Labour "the nasty party" in her conference speech, Corbyn suggested that the Tories were once again worthy of her epithet.

May emphasised that Freeman had apologised and, as so often, warned that the "extra support" promised by Labour would be impossible without the "strong economy" guaranteed by the Conservatives. "The one thing we know about Labour is that they would bankrupt Britain," she declared. Unlike on previous occasions, Corbyn had a ready riposte, reminding the Tories that they had increased the national debt by more than every previous Labour government.

But May saved her jibe of choice for the end, recalling shadow cabinet minister Cat Smith's assertion that the Copeland result was an "incredible achivement" for her party. "I think that word actually sums up the Right Honourable Gentleman's leadership. In-cred-ible," May concluded, with a rather surreal Thatcher-esque flourish.

Yet many economists and EU experts say the same of her Brexit plan. Having repeatedly hailed the UK's "strong economy" (which has so far proved resilient), May had better hope that single market withdrawal does not wreck it. But on Brexit, as on disability benefits, it is Conservative rebels, not Corbyn, who will determine her fate.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.