Opinionomics | 20 April 2012

Must-read comment and analysis. A US-heavy round-up featuring the IMF, Greg Mankiw, and some America

1. IMF and China are new BFFs (Finanical Times | alphaville)

"There seems to be something of a love-in going on between China and the IMF, though admittedly you have to wade through a weighty report to glimpse it," writes Masa Serdarevic.

2. Competition Is Healthy for Governments, Too (New York Times)

N. Gregory Mankiw argues that states compete, and are right to compete, to lower tax rates because of citizens moving.

3. America will not go the way of Europe (Washington Post | Wonkblog)

Ezra Klein explains why the Eurocrisis is sui generis, and thus why America will not follow that path.

4. Chris Grayling calls me a job snob for questioning those who pay so little (Guardian)

Polly Toynbee attacks Grayling, arguing that by cutting tax credits, he is harming the poorest in society.

5. The maths behind the madness (Economist | Graphic Detail)

The Economist present their "interactive guide to reducing government debt."

A homeless man smokes in New York City, where the poverty rate has hit 21 per cent since the recession. Photograph: Getty Images

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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5 things Labour has blamed for the Copeland by-election defeat

Other than Labour, of course. 

In the early hours of Friday morning, Labour activists in Copeland received a crushing blow, when they lost a long-held constituency to the Tories

As the news sank in, everyone from the leadership down began sharing their views on what went wrong. 

Some Labour MPs who had done the door knock rounds acknowledged voters felt the party was divided, and were confused about its leadership.

But others had more imaginative reasons for defeat:

1. Tony Blair

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell told Radio 4’s Today programme that: “I don’t think it’s about individuals”. But he then laid into Tony Blair, saying: “We can’t have a circumstance again where a week before the by-election a former leader of the party attacks the party itself.”

2. Marginal seats

In a flurry of tweets, shadow Justice secretary Richard Burgon wanted everyone to know that Copeland was a marginal seat and always had been since it was created in 1983.

Which might be true, but most commentators were rather more struck by the fact Labour MPs had managed to overcome that marginality and represent the area for eighty years. 

3. The nuclear industry

In response to the defeat, Corbyn loyalist Paul Flynn tweeted: “Copeland MP is pro-nuclear right winger. No change there.” He added that Copeland was a “unique pro-nuclear seat”. 

In fact, when The New Statesman visited Copeland, we found residents far more concerned about the jobs the nuclear industry provides than any evangelical fervour for splitting atoms.

4. The political establishment

Addressing journalists the day after the defeat, Corbyn said voters were “let down by the political establishment”. So let down, they voted for the party of government.

He also blamed the “corporate controlled media”. 

5. Brexit

Corbyn's erstwhile rival Owen Smith tweeted that the defeat was "more evidence of the electoral foolhardiness of Labour chasing Brexiteers down the rabbit hole". It's certainly the case that Brexit hasn't been kind to Labour's share of the vote in Remain-voting by-elections like Richmond. But more than 56 per cent of Cumbrians voted Leave, and in Copeland the percentage was the highest, at 62 per cent. That's an awful lot of Brexiteers not to chase...

I'm a mole, innit.