Nobel Prize-winning economist attacks Tory spending plans

Joseph Stiglitz tells the NS that Cameron and Osborne are "scaremongering".

In a forthcoming interview with Jonathan Derbyshire and Mehdi Hasan of the New Statesman, the Nobel Prize-winning US economist Joseph Stiglitz says that he is "incredulous" at the Conservatives' plans to cut spending. He describes Tory economic policy as "Hooverite" and dismisses as "crazy" and "fear-mongering" the claim that Britain is at risk of defaulting on its debts.

His response to David Cameron's and George Osborne's plans to cut spending: "Incredulous . . . We [Keynesians] had a victory for a year and then back come the Hooverites."

On Conservative claims that Britain is in danger of a Greek-style debt crisis and risks losing its AAA credit rating: "I think it's fear-mongering and I think the notion that the rating agencies, which did such a terrible job over rating all these products -- that we should show deference to their judgement of good economic policy seems outrageous."

On the suggestion, put about by George Osborne, among others, that Britain is at risk of default: "I say you're crazy -- economically you clearly have the capacity to pay. The debt situation has been worse in other countries at other times. This is all scaremongering, perhaps linked to politics, perhaps rigged to an economic agenda, but it's out of touch with reality. One of the advantages that you have is that you have your own central bank that can buy some of these bonds to stabilise their price."

On what will happen to unemployment if the Tories expand monetary policy: "I don't think there is much scope for monetary expansion . . . without engaging in new risks for the economy . . . So under the current framework it would almost certainly lead to higher unemployment."

On Gordon Brown: "I think he is . . . genuinely committed to broad social goals -- climate change, developing countries, fixing globalisation."

On whether Brown would make a good future head of the IMF or World Bank once he leaves Downing Street: "Yes. These are issues that he cares about passionately and that he understands and is very engaged in. He really did play a big role in reshaping the G20."

(Read Paul Mason's review for the NS of Stiglitz's new book, Freefall, here.)

Jonathan Derbyshire is Managing Editor of Prospect. He was formerly Culture Editor of the New Statesman.

Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
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Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

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