An economics lesson from the NS

William Rees-Mogg has been reading our leaders.

It's nice to see that the venerable William Rees-Mogg has been reading our leaders. In his latest Mail on Sunday column the former Times editor writes:

The leading left-wing weekly in Britain is the New Statesman. At the beginning of the month, the heading of its editorial article was: "We are still teetering on the edge of a perilous cliff."

The text points out: "Mr Brown boasted that Britain was better placed than most of its competitors to cope and then recover. In fact, we have emerged from recession much slower than Germany, France, Spain, Japan or the United States." That is, unfortunately, the truth.

You can read the relevant leader in full here.

In his fascinating interview with LabourList today, James Purnell suggests that Gordon Brown still has a good claim to re-election based on his success in preventing the recession turning into a depression. But, as our leader suggests, voters are still more likely to remember him as the man who boasted that he had abolished boom and bust as chancellor, only to lead us into the deepest postwar recession as Prime Minister.

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Theresa May is paying the price for mismanaging Boris Johnson

The Foreign Secretary's bruised ego may end up destroying Theresa May. 

And to think that Theresa May scheduled her big speech for this Friday to make sure that Conservative party conference wouldn’t be dominated by the matter of Brexit. Now, thanks to Boris Johnson, it won’t just be her conference, but Labour’s, which is overshadowed by Brexit in general and Tory in-fighting in particular. (One imagines that the Labour leadership will find a way to cope somehow.)

May is paying the price for mismanaging Johnson during her period of political hegemony after she became leader. After he was betrayed by Michael Gove and lacking any particular faction in the parliamentary party, she brought him back from the brink of political death by making him Foreign Secretary, but also used her strength and his weakness to shrink his empire.

The Foreign Office had its responsibility for negotiating Brexit hived off to the newly-created Department for Exiting the European Union (Dexeu) and for navigating post-Brexit trade deals to the Department of International Trade. Johnson was given control of one of the great offices of state, but with no responsibility at all for the greatest foreign policy challenge since the Second World War.

Adding to his discomfort, the new Foreign Secretary was regularly the subject of jokes from the Prime Minister and cabinet colleagues. May likened him to a dog that had to be put down. Philip Hammond quipped about him during his joke-fuelled 2017 Budget. All of which gave Johnson’s allies the impression that Johnson-hunting was a licensed sport as far as Downing Street was concerned. He was then shut out of the election campaign and has continued to be a marginalised figure even as the disappointing election result forced May to involve the wider cabinet in policymaking.

His sense of exclusion from the discussions around May’s Florence speech only added to his sense of isolation. May forgot that if you aren’t going to kill, don’t wound: now, thanks to her lost majority, she can’t afford to put any of the Brexiteers out in the cold, and Johnson is once again where he wants to be: centre-stage. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.