Hung parliament? Fine by us, say rating agencies

Tories wrong to fearmonger about the election result.

Earlier this week, Ken Clarke predicted panic in the financial markets -- causing a "wobble" in the pound -- if the general election failed to deliver a decisive result. "Scaremongering of the worst kind", was the rather appropriate response from the Lib Dems' Vince Cable.

Today, David Cameron has continued with his own nonsensical fearmongering about the prospects of a hung parliament and "no overall control" in Westminster in a speech to business leaders.

But here's Arnaud Mares, lead UK analyst for the credit rating agency Moody's:

A hung parliament does not in itself have direct implications for Moody's UK rating.

Mares said a hung parliament could help rather than hinder Britain's efforts to reduce its deficit if it delivers public support for spending cuts:

If you had a fiscal plan agreed by a coalition, that could actually be quite positive, because it would imply broad popular support.

Moody's is not alone here. The rival rating agency Fitch says its own outlook for the UK economy remains "stable". And Capital Economics, the consultancy firm, says that the markets have "priced in" a hung parliament now, and are calmer about the idea.

So will Cameron, Clarke and co let this go now? Or will we hear more and more nonsense from desperate Tories about the supposedly devastating financial impact of a hung parliament as 6 May approaches? I suspect we will . . .


Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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Why relations between Theresa May and Philip Hammond became tense so quickly

The political imperative of controlling immigration is clashing with the economic imperative of maintaining growth. 

There is no relationship in government more important than that between the prime minister and the chancellor. When Theresa May entered No.10, she chose Philip Hammond, a dependable technocrat and long-standing ally who she had known since Oxford University. 

But relations between the pair have proved far tenser than anticipated. On Wednesday, Hammond suggested that students could be excluded from the net migration target. "We are having conversations within government about the most appropriate way to record and address net migration," he told the Treasury select committee. The Chancellor, in common with many others, has long regarded the inclusion of students as an obstacle to growth. 

The following day Hammond was publicly rebuked by No.10. "Our position on who is included in the figures has not changed, and we are categorically not reviewing whether or not students are included," a spokesman said (as I reported in advance, May believes that the public would see this move as "a fix"). 

This is not the only clash in May's first 100 days. Hammond was aggrieved by the Prime Minister's criticisms of loose monetary policy (which forced No.10 to state that it "respects the independence of the Bank of England") and is resisting tougher controls on foreign takeovers. The Chancellor has also struck a more sceptical tone on the UK's economic prospects. "It is clear to me that the British people did not vote on June 23 to become poorer," he declared in his conference speech, a signal that national prosperity must come before control of immigration. 

May and Hammond's relationship was never going to match the remarkable bond between David Cameron and George Osborne. But should relations worsen it risks becoming closer to that beween Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. Like Hammond, Darling entered the Treasury as a calm technocrat and an ally of the PM. But the extraordinary circumstances of the financial crisis transformed him into a far more assertive figure.

In times of turmoil, there is an inevitable clash between political and economic priorities. As prime minister, Brown resisted talk of cuts for fear of the electoral consequences. But as chancellor, Darling was more concerned with the bottom line (backing a rise in VAT). By analogy, May is focused on the political imperative of controlling immigration, while Hammond is focused on the economic imperative of maintaining growth. If their relationship is to endure far tougher times they will soon need to find a middle way. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.