It's not just you; European rescue plans really are getting less effective

Whereas they used to last for whole months, interventions now improve the market for mere hours.

It may be a running joke here that each new intervention in Europe is less effective than the last, with the Spanish bailout saving the world for 48 hours and the Greek elections saving it for 48 minutes, but it turns out that it's actually truer than we thought.

A new study by the Royal Bank of Canada, reported by the Wall Street Journal, finds that the positive market boost from each new intervention by EU officials is taking less and less time to unwind. Whereas the August announcement that the ECB would begin buying bonds calmed the Spanish and Italian markets for 48 days, the removal of Berlusconi in November lasted 48 hours – and the report puts the boost from Samaras winning the Greek election at just two hours.

RCB's chief economist, Tom Porcelli, partly blames computer trading for the decline, but says that the bigger reason is simply that traders have become more sceptical:

I think investors are realizing talk is cheap. If this thesis is correct, it means policy makers can ill afford to continue dragging their feet.

The problem is that its not only talk which is cheap; money is too. If you look over the list of interventions, very few of them involve any sort of structural changes. That was fine in 2008, when it looked like the crisis was a mere cyclical concern; but in Europe now, it is a very different beast. The fear that the Eurozone is an inherently unstable creation is a self-fulfilling prophecy, cycling back into more woes for peripheral countries like Greece, Spain and Italy.

Bailouts, writedowns, and summits can't solve this problem, and the ability to kick the can any further down the road is, it seems, being removed from the picture.

Antonis Samaras, the new Greek Prime Minister, caused two hours of stability. 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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Ignored by the media, the Liberal Democrats are experiencing a revival

The crushed Liberals are doing particularly well in areas that voted Conservative in 2015 - and Remain in 2016. 

The Liberal Democrats had another good night last night, making big gains in by-elections. They won Adeyfield West, a seat they have never held in Dacorum, with a massive swing. They were up by close to the 20 points in the Derby seat of Allestree, beating Labour into second place. And they won a seat in the Cotswolds, which borders the vacant seat of Witney.

It’s worth noting that they also went backwards in a safe Labour ward in Blackpool and a safe Conservative seat in Northamptonshire.  But the overall pattern is clear, and it’s not merely confined to last night: the Liberal Democrats are enjoying a mini-revival, particularly in the south-east.

Of course, it doesn’t appear to be making itself felt in the Liberal Democrats’ poll share. “After Corbyn's election,” my colleague George tweeted recently, “Some predicted Lib Dems would rise like Lazarus. But poll ratings still stuck at 8 per cent.” Prior to the local elections, I was pessimistic that the so-called Liberal Democrat fightback could make itself felt at a national contest, when the party would have to fight on multiple fronts.

But the local elections – the first time since 1968 when every part of the mainland United Kingdom has had a vote on outside of a general election – proved that completely wrong. They  picked up 30 seats across England, though they had something of a nightmare in Stockport, and were reduced to just one seat in the Welsh Assembly. Their woes continued in Scotland, however, where they slipped to fifth place. They were even back to the third place had those votes been replicated on a national scale.

Polling has always been somewhat unkind to the Liberal Democrats outside of election campaigns, as the party has a low profile, particularly now it has just eight MPs. What appears to be happening at local by-elections and my expectation may be repeated at a general election is that when voters are presented with the option of a Liberal Democrat at the ballot box they find the idea surprisingly appealing.

Added to that, the Liberal Democrats’ happiest hunting grounds are clearly affluent, Conservative-leaning areas that voted for Remain in the referendum. All of which makes their hopes of a good second place in Witney – and a good night in the 2017 county councils – look rather less farfetched than you might expect. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.