Could the rise of Golden Dawn save the Eurozone?

In Germany's nightmares, inflation leads to Nazis. But now that there are Nazis anyway, perhaps we'l

More growth would obviously do a lot to help the Eurozone. For Spain and Italy, a healthy level of growth alone might be enough to pull them out of crisis mode. For Greece, more would have to be done, but it would be a strong start.

Unfortunately, that growth is being at least partially quashed by the outspoken desire of Germany (and thus the European Central Bank) to keep inflation low. High inflation in Germany would overcome the problem that the Eurozone currently has where wages in Spain, Greece and Portugal need to fall relative to those in the core, but are showing no signs of doing so.

Why is Germany so against inflation?

Well, the fact that high inflation would negatively impact the German economy is obviously a large part of it. But equally important is the experience of the German people in the 1930s. Put bluntly, there is a fear in Germany that high inflation leads to fascism.

Which is why the rise of Greek neo-nazis Golden Dawn (whose flag looks like an alternate-universe version of the swastika) could be a blessing in disguise. Albeit a really, really good disguise. Because the one thing Germany hates more than inflation is Nazis.

Greece has price of a little under 2 per cent. There are a lot of things causing the rise of their homegrown Nazis, but hyperinflation is not one of them. So right now Germans are seeing their worst nightmare happen even though they managed to keep inflation low across the Eurozone.

Could this mean that they'll back off slightly over their overbearing desire to keep inflation low?

Well, so far there isn't a huge amount of encouraging news. On Wednesday, the FT did report that:

A future German inflation rate above the eurozone average could be part of a natural adjustment process as crisis-hit countries pulled themselves out of recession, the Bundesbank argued in evidence to German parliamentarians.

Except that that was only a couple of days after the Bundesbank president wrote in the same paper that:

To prevent the recovery stalling, demands have been directed at the Eurosystem to deliver yet lower interest rates (or at least to forego raising them), yet more liquidity and even larger purchases of assets.

However, the assumption underlying such well-intentioned advice does not hold up to closer scrutiny.

So they don't appear to have been spooked into monetary expansion anytime soon. Perhaps Golden Dawn aren't really a blessing in disguise after all; sometimes, to misquote Freud, a Nazi is just a Nazi.

The leader of the fascist Golden Dawn party. Photograph: Getty

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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Why the Liberal Democrats by-election surge is not all it seems

The Lib Dems chalked up impressive results in Stoke and Copeland. But just how much of a fight back is it?

By the now conventional post-Brexit logic, Stoke and Copeland ought to have been uniquely inhospitable for the Lib Dems. 

The party lost its deposit in both seats in 2015, and has no representation on either council. So too were the referendum odds stacked against it: in Stoke, the so-called Brexit capital of Britain, 70 per cent of voters backed Leave last June, as did 62 per cent in Copeland. And, as Stephen has written before, the Lib Dems’ mini-revival has so far been most pronounced in affluent, Conservative-leaning areas which swung for remain. 

So what explains the modest – but impressive – surges in their vote share in yesterday’s contests? In Stoke, where they finished fifth in 2015, the party won 9.8 per cent of the vote, up 5.7 percentage points. They also more than doubled their vote share in Copeland, where they beat Ukip for third with 7.3 per cent share of the vote.

The Brexit explanation is a tempting and not entirely invalid one. Each seat’s not insignificant pro-EU minority was more or less ignored by most of the national media, for whom the existence of remainers in what we’re now obliged to call “left-behind Britain” is often a nuance too far. With the Prime Minister Theresa May pushing for a hard Brexit and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn waving it through, Lib Dem leader Tim Farron has made the pro-EU narrative his own. As was the case for Charles Kennedy in the Iraq War years, this confers upon the Lib Dems a status and platform they were denied as the junior partners in coalition. 

While their stance on Europe is slowly but surely helping the Lib Dems rebuild their pre-2015 demographic core - students, graduates and middle-class professionals employed in the public sector – last night’s results, particularly in Stoke, also give them reason for mild disappointment. 

In Stoke, campaign staffers privately predicted they might manage to beat Ukip for second or third place. The party ran a full campaign for the first time in several years, and canvassing returns suggested significant numbers of Labour voters, mainly public sector workers disenchanted with Corbyn’s stance on Europe, were set to vote Lib Dem. Nor were they intimidated by the Brexit factor: recent council by-elections in Sunderland and Rotheram, which both voted decisively to leave, saw the Lib Dems win seats for the first time on massive swings. 

So it could well be argued that their candidate, local cardiologist Zulfiqar Ali, ought to have done better. Staffordshire University’s campus, which Tim Farron visited as part of a voter registration drive, falls within the seat’s boundaries. Ali, unlike his Labour competitor Gareth Snell and Ukip leader Paul Nuttall, didn’t have his campaign derailed or disrupted by negative media attention. Unlike the Tory candidate Jack Brereton, he had the benefit of being older than 25. And, like 15 per cent of the electorate, he is of Kashmiri origin.  

In public and in private, Lib Dems say the fact that Stoke was a two-horse race between Labour and Ukip ultimately worked to their disadvantage. The prospect of Nuttall as their MP may well have been enough to convince a good number of the Labour waverers mentioned earlier to back Snell. 

With his party hovering at around 10 per cent in national polls, last night’s results give Farron cause for optimism – especially after their near-wipeout in 2015. But it’s easy to forget the bigger picture in all of this. The party have chalked up a string of impressive parliamentary by-election results – second in Witney, a spectacular win in Richmond Park, third in Sleaford and Copeland, and a strong fourth in Stoke. 

However, most of these results represent a reversion to, or indeed an underperformance compared to, the party’s pre-2015 norm. With the notable exception of Richmond’s Sarah Olney, who only joined the Lib Dems after the last general election, these candidates haven’t - or the Lib Dem vote - come from nowhere. Zulfiqar Ali previously sat on the council in Stoke and had fought the seat before, and Witney’s Liz Leffman and Sleaford’s Ross Pepper are both popular local councillors. And for all the excited commentary about Richmond, it was, of course, held by the Lib Dems for 13 years before Zac Goldsmith won it for the Tories in 2010. 

The EU referendum may have given the Lib Dems a new lease of life, but, as their #LibDemFightback trope suggests, they’re best understood as a revanchist, and not insurgent, force. Much has been said about Brexit realigning our politics, but, for now at least, the party’s new normal is looking quite a lot like the old one.