The Greek elections saved the world for about 48 minutes

Fundamental failings remain.

The half-life of a European success is getting shorter and shorter. Last week's bailout of Spain (euphamistically referred to by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy as "what happened on Saturday") saved the world for 48 hours, with everyone thinking all was good at Saturday lunchtime and realising that it was still messed-up by Monday. The results of the Greek elections look to have saved the world for 48 minutes.

The headlines (mostly written before the election was even declared, to be fair) declare Europe to have survived "a close call" and been granted "a stay of execution" as "Greece gives Europe a chance", and this morning economics correspondents are still filing pieces claiming Greek result buys Europe time.

For a while it looked like they may have been right. Spanish 10 year yields opened at 6.84, before falling in the first few minutes of the day to 6.817. Italian yields also dropped slightly, and the country's main stock index, the FTSE MIB was up over 1 per cent over Friday's close.

But by 8:49, the MIB was down to where it had been on Friday, and is now 1 per cent down. And by 9:14, the Spanish 10 year yields had rocketed up, not just to where they were, but to a new high of 7.12 (chart via FT alphaville):

The problem is, as we wrote this morning, that the election of New Democracy does nothing to solve the underlying crisis in Greece – nor does it take Spain off the hook. Both countries are in the throes of a full-blown (though strangely slo-mo) banking crisis, and Greece is additionally suffering under an austerity program which is unlikely to be sustainable, either politically or economically, while its relationship with the European Union remains unchanged.

Except for the replacement of PASOK with SYRIZA in the Greek two-party system, the victory for ND represented a return to the status quo. And, regardless of your opinion of the possible replacement for it, the status quo was kind of crap.

A trader is sad about something. 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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Theresa May is paying the price for mismanaging Boris Johnson

The Foreign Secretary's bruised ego may end up destroying Theresa May. 

And to think that Theresa May scheduled her big speech for this Friday to make sure that Conservative party conference wouldn’t be dominated by the matter of Brexit. Now, thanks to Boris Johnson, it won’t just be her conference, but Labour’s, which is overshadowed by Brexit in general and Tory in-fighting in particular. (One imagines that the Labour leadership will find a way to cope somehow.)

May is paying the price for mismanaging Johnson during her period of political hegemony after she became leader. After he was betrayed by Michael Gove and lacking any particular faction in the parliamentary party, she brought him back from the brink of political death by making him Foreign Secretary, but also used her strength and his weakness to shrink his empire.

The Foreign Office had its responsibility for negotiating Brexit hived off to the newly-created Department for Exiting the European Union (Dexeu) and for navigating post-Brexit trade deals to the Department of International Trade. Johnson was given control of one of the great offices of state, but with no responsibility at all for the greatest foreign policy challenge since the Second World War.

Adding to his discomfort, the new Foreign Secretary was regularly the subject of jokes from the Prime Minister and cabinet colleagues. May likened him to a dog that had to be put down. Philip Hammond quipped about him during his joke-fuelled 2017 Budget. All of which gave Johnson’s allies the impression that Johnson-hunting was a licensed sport as far as Downing Street was concerned. He was then shut out of the election campaign and has continued to be a marginalised figure even as the disappointing election result forced May to involve the wider cabinet in policymaking.

His sense of exclusion from the discussions around May’s Florence speech only added to his sense of isolation. May forgot that if you aren’t going to kill, don’t wound: now, thanks to her lost majority, she can’t afford to put any of the Brexiteers out in the cold, and Johnson is once again where he wants to be: centre-stage. 

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