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.

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Richmond is a wake-up call for Labour's Brexit strategy

No one made Labour stand in Richmond Park. 

Oh, Labour Party. There was a way through.

No one made you stand in Richmond Park. You could have "struck a blow against the government", you could have shared the Lib Dem success. Instead, you lost both your dignity and your deposit. And to cap it all (Christian Wolmar, take a bow) you self-nominated for a Nobel Prize for Mansplaining.

It’s like the party strategist is locked in the bowels of HQ, endlessly looping in reverse Olivia Newton John’s "Making a Good Thing Better".

And no one can think that today marks the end of the party’s problems on Brexit.

But the thing is: there’s no need to Labour on. You can fix it.

Set the government some tests. Table some amendments: “The government shall negotiate having regard to…”

  • What would be good for our economy (boost investment, trade and jobs).
  • What would enhance fairness (help individuals and communities who have missed out over the last decades).
  • What would deliver sovereignty (magnify our democratic control over our destiny).
  • What would improve finances (what Brexit makes us better off, individually and collectively). 

And say that, if the government does not meet those tests, the Labour party will not support the Article 50 deal. You’ll take some pain today – but no matter, the general election is not for years. And if the tests are well crafted they will be easy to defend.

Then wait for the negotiations to conclude. If in 2019, Boris Johnson returns bearing cake for all, if the tests are achieved, Labour will, and rightly, support the government’s Brexit deal. There will be no second referendum. And MPs in Leave voting constituencies will bear no Brexit penalty at the polls.

But if he returns with thin gruel? If the economy has tanked, if inflation is rising and living standards have slumped, and the deficit has ballooned – what then? The only winners will be door manufacturers. Across the country they will be hard at work replacing those kicked down at constituency offices by voters demanding a fix. Labour will be joined in rejecting the deal from all across the floor: Labour will have shown the way.

Because the party reads the electorate today as wanting Brexit, it concludes it must deliver it. But, even for those who think a politician’s job is to channel the electorate, this thinking discloses an error in logic. The task is not to read the political dynamic of today. It is to position itself for the dynamic when it matters - at the next general election

And by setting some economic tests for a good Brexit, Labour can buy an option on that for free.

An earlier version of this argument appeared on Jolyon Maugham's blog Waiting For Tax.

Jolyon Maugham is a barrister who advised Ed Miliband on tax policy. He blogs at Waiting for Tax, and writes for the NS on tax and legal issues.