Opinionomics | 4 April 2012

Must read comment and analysis. Featuring robots.

1. What Export-Oriented America Means (The American Interest)

A long-read from Tyler Cowen, covering how and why America could return to being a dominant exporter. Featuring robots.

2. Want to Bet on the 2012 Election? The CFTC Says No (Bloomberg View)

Paula Dwyer reports on the ban from the US authorities on betting on the presidential election. No such rule here, where the odds are 3:1 for a Romney victory   and evens for Obama.

3. Wall Street comes to Watton (BBC News)

Robert Peston argues that the seemingly scammy way "asymmetric cap and collar" deals were sold to small business owners could be the next banking scandal.

4. 'Polluter pays' is the only principle that can limit aviation emissions (Guardian)

The EU climate commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, lays out the case for incorporating aviation emissions into the cap-and-trade system.

5. US economy: A market on the move (Financial Times)

The FT's lead opinion piece today suggests that we could be seeing a housing recovery in America.

Are robots the key to an American recovery? Not this kind, sadly. 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.