Rejoice! We're a safe haven, says Mehdi Hasan

But low gilt yields aren't a vote of confidence in the UK economy.

The Chancellor George Osborne will have been delighted to pick up the Financial Times this morning. As the Eurozone implodes, the FT's splash was headlined:

Gilt yields fall as UK becomes safe haven

"Safe haven" is a line that the Chancellor and his supporters in the right-wing press have been spinning for several months now, arguing that the fall in UK government borrowing costs - gilt yields - to historic lows is a vindication of the coalition's austerity agenda.

It isn't.

The inconvenient truth is that low gilt yields are a reflection of economic weakness, not strength. Investors are pricing for a double-dip recession - or as the Telegraph's in-house deficit hawk Jeremy Warner conceded back in August:

Gilt yields are signalling a depression

As the FT story itself goes on to reveal:

[L]ow returns reflect expectations that the Bank of England will keep interest rates exceptionally low for the foreseeable future given the UK's extremely weak economic prospects.

The paper also cites an important, if under-reported, study by former Cabinet Office chief economist Jonathan Portes:

Examining the links between stock market performance and gilt yields, Jonathan Portes, director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, has found a strong correlation between lower gilt yields and greater investor concerns about economic prospects.

Over to you, Gideon...

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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Labour to strip "abusive" registered supporters of their vote in the leadership contest

The party is asking members to report intimidating behaviour - but is vague about what this entails. 

Labour already considered blocking social media users who describe others as "scab" and "scum" from applying to vote. Now it is asking members to report abuse directly - and the punishment is equally harsh. 

Registered and affiliated supporters will lose their vote if found to be engaging in abusive behaviour, while full members could be suspended. 

Labour general secretary Iain McNicol said: “The Labour Party should be the home of lively debate, of new ideas and of campaigns to change society.

“However, for a fair debate to take place, people must be able to air their views in an atmosphere of respect. They shouldn’t be shouted down, they shouldn’t be intimidated and they shouldn’t be abused, either in meetings or online.

“Put plainly, there is simply too much of it taking place and it needs to stop."

Anyone who comes across abusive behaviour is being encouraged to email validation@labour.org.uk.

Since the bulk of Labour MPs decided to oppose Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, supporters of both camps have traded insults on social media and at constituency Labour party gatherings, leading the party to suspend most meetings until after the election. 

In a more ominous sign of intimidation, a brick was thrown through the window of Corbyn challenger Angela Eagle's constituency office. 

McNicol said condemning such "appalling" behaviour was meaningless unless backed up by action: “I want to be clear, if you are a member and you engage in abusive behaviour towards other members it will be investigated and you could be suspended while that investigation is carried out. 

“If you are a registered supporter or affiliated supporter and you engage in abusive behaviour you will not get a vote in this leadership election."

What does abusive behaviour actually mean?

The question many irate social media users will be asking is, what do you mean by abusive? 

A leaked report from Labour's National Executive Committee condemned the word "traitor" as well as "scum" and "scab". A Labour spokeswoman directed The Staggers to the Labour website's leadership election page, but this merely stated that "any racist, abusive or foul language or behaviour at meetings, on social media or in any other context" will be dealt with. 

But with emotions running high, and trust already so low between rival supporters, such vague language is going to provide little confidence in the election process.