Opinionomics | 15 May 2012

Must-read comment and analysis. Featuring economists vs Paul Krugman

1. How much structural unemployment was there during the Great Depression? (Marginal Revolution)

Tyler Cowen rounds up the literature about whether or not the Great Depression was a structural or cyclical collapse in unemployment.

2. Paul Krugman’s Economic Blinders (Michael Hudson)

Hudson writes that Krugman's focus on arguing with intellectual minnows weakens his overall arguments.

3. Record levels of under-employment show that the jobs crisis is far worse than the headline figures (ToUChstone)

Anjum Klair covers the underemployment crisis.

4. As ever, it will be the lawyers who benefit most from a Grexit (Telegraph)

Jeremy Warner addresses the legal mess Athens will be in "when" (not if, apparently) it tries to redenominate its debt in drachma.

5. Saving Greece will benefit Europe as it did when the Allies rescued Germany (Guardian)

German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble says if the Greeks don't like the rules they can leave. Phillip Inman writes that this is unfair and it won't work

Nicolas Sarkozy and President Hollande. France announced growth of 0.0 per cent this quarter. 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.

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Tom Watson rouses Labour's conference as he comes out fighting

The party's deputy leader exhilarated delegates with his paean to the Blair and Brown years. 

Tom Watson is down but not out. After Jeremy Corbyn's second landslide victory, and weeks of threats against his position, Labour's deputy leader could have played it safe. Instead, he came out fighting. 

With Corbyn seated directly behind him, he declared: "I don't know why we've been focusing on what was wrong with the Blair and Brown governments for the last six years. But trashing our record is not the way to enhance our brand. We won't win elections like that! And we need to win elections!" As Watson won a standing ovation from the hall and the platform, the Labour leader remained motionless. When a heckler interjected, Watson riposted: "Jeremy, I don't think she got the unity memo." Labour delegates, many of whom hail from the pre-Corbyn era, lapped it up.

Though he warned against another challenge to the leader ("we can't afford to keep doing this"), he offered a starkly different account of the party's past and its future. He reaffirmed Labour's commitment to Nato ("a socialist construct"), with Corbyn left isolated as the platform applauded. The only reference to the leader came when Watson recalled his recent PMQs victory over grammar schools. There were dissenting voices (Watson was heckled as he praised Sadiq Khan for winning an election: "Just like Jeremy Corbyn!"). But one would never have guessed that this was the party which had just re-elected Corbyn. 

There was much more to Watson's speech than this: a fine comic riff on "Saturday's result" (Ed Balls on Strictly), a spirited attack on Theresa May's "ducking and diving; humming and hahing" and a cerebral account of the automation revolution. But it was his paean to Labour history that roused the conference as no other speaker has. 

The party's deputy channelled the spirit of both Hugh Gaitskell ("fight, and fight, and fight again to save the party we love") and his mentor Gordon Brown (emulating his trademark rollcall of New Labour achivements). With his voice cracking, Watson recalled when "from the sunny uplands of increasing prosperity social democratic government started to feel normal to the people of Britain". For Labour, a party that has never been further from power in recent decades, that truly was another age. But for a brief moment, Watson's tubthumper allowed Corbyn's vanquished opponents to relive it. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.