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.

Photo: Getty
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Who will win the Copeland by-election?

Labour face a tricky task in holding onto the seat. 

What’s the Copeland by-election about? That’s the question that will decide who wins it.

The Conservatives want it to be about the nuclear industry, which is the seat’s biggest employer, and Jeremy Corbyn’s long history of opposition to nuclear power.

Labour want it to be about the difficulties of the NHS in Cumbria in general and the future of West Cumberland Hospital in particular.

Who’s winning? Neither party is confident of victory but both sides think it will be close. That Theresa May has visited is a sign of the confidence in Conservative headquarters that, win or lose, Labour will not increase its majority from the six-point lead it held over the Conservatives in May 2015. (It’s always more instructive to talk about vote share rather than raw numbers, in by-elections in particular.)

But her visit may have been counterproductive. Yes, she is the most popular politician in Britain according to all the polls, but in visiting she has added fuel to the fire of Labour’s message that the Conservatives are keeping an anxious eye on the outcome.

Labour strategists feared that “the oxygen” would come out of the campaign if May used her visit to offer a guarantee about West Cumberland Hospital. Instead, she refused to answer, merely hyping up the issue further.

The party is nervous that opposition to Corbyn is going to supress turnout among their voters, but on the Conservative side, there is considerable irritation that May’s visit has made their task harder, too.

Voters know the difference between a by-election and a general election and my hunch is that people will get they can have a free hit on the health question without risking the future of the nuclear factory. That Corbyn has U-Turned on nuclear power only helps.

I said last week that if I knew what the local paper would look like between now and then I would be able to call the outcome. Today the West Cumbria News & Star leads with Downing Street’s refusal to answer questions about West Cumberland Hospital. All the signs favour Labour. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.