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.

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Labour tensions boil over at fractious MPs' meeting

Corbyn supporters and critics clash over fiscal charter U-turn and new group Momentum. 

"A total fucking shambles". That was the verdict of the usually emollient Ben Bradshaw as he left tonight's Parliamentary Labour Party meeting. His words were echoed by MPs from all wings of the party. "I've never seen anything like it," one shadow minister told me. In commitee room 14 of the House of Commons, tensions within the party - over the U-turn on George Osborne's fiscal charter and new Corbynite group Momentum - erupted. 

After a short speech by Jeremy Corbyn, shadow chancellor John McDonnell sought to explain his decision to oppose Osborne's fiscal charter (having supported it just two weeks ago). He cited the change in global economic conditions and the refusal to allow Labour to table an amendment. McDonnell also vowed to assist colleagues in Scotland in challenging the SNP anti-austerity claims. But MPs were left unimpressed. "I don't think I've ever heard a weaker round of applause at the PLP than the one John McDonnell just got," one told me. MPs believe that McDonnell's U-turn was due to his failure to realise that the fiscal charter mandated an absolute budget surplus (leaving no room to borrow to invest), rather than merely a current budget surplus. "A huge joke" was how a furious John Mann described it. He and others were outraged by the lack of consultation over the move. "At 1:45pm he [McDonnell] said he was considering our position and would consult with the PLP and the shadow cabinet," one MP told me. "Then he announces it before 6pm PLP and tomorow's shadow cabinet." 

When former shadow cabinet minister Mary Creagh asked Corbyn about the new group Momentum, which some fear could be used as a vehicle to deselect critical MPs (receiving what was described as a weak response), Richard Burgon, one of the body's directors, offered a lengthy defence and was, one MP said, "just humiliated". He added: "It looked at one point like they weren't even going to let him finish. As the fractious exchanges were overheard by journalists outside, Emily Thornberry appealed to colleagues to stop texting hacks and keep their voices down (within earshot of all). 

After a calmer conference than most expected, tonight's meeting was evidence of how great the tensions within Labour remain. Veteran MPs described it as the worst PLP gathering for 30 years. The fear for all MPs is that they have the potential to get even worse. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.