Mercator Dejection

The Economist maps the world's burgeoning debt.

A little doom and gloom before the weekend.

The Economist has drawn up an interactive map of approximate world debt, year by year, and country by country, since 1999.

As you would expect, the overall total global debt ($39 trillion) is rather large, and rising.

There's something perturbing about seeing Ireland, the UK and Iceland suddenly swamped in red by 2008. It's also salutory to remember that Greece's debt has been over 100 percent of it's GDP for ten years now.

The country that remains most constant is (Red) China, whose unwavering commitment to keep the value of the renminbi low by hoovering up US treasuries may be about to spark an intercontinental currency war. After all, China and the US can't keep propping each other up like two drunks forever.

Before you atart seeing red, remember folks, a lot of soveriegn debt (especially in the UK) is at least in part a bag of self-loaned IOUs, and there's not necessarily anything wrong with running deficits in hard times and paying them back in the good (a learning to Alan Johnson, and a fail for Gordon Brown).

More hearteningly, scrolling through debt as percentage of GDP over the years shows Africa (Sudan excepted) gradually emerging from the red.

I wonder what it will look like next year?

 

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PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn turns "the nasty party" back on Theresa May

The Labour leader exploited Conservative splits over disability benefits.

It didn't take long for Theresa May to herald the Conservatives' Copeland by-election victory at PMQs (and one couldn't blame her). But Jeremy Corbyn swiftly brought her down to earth. The Labour leader denounced the government for "sneaking out" its decision to overrule a court judgement calling for Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) to be extended to those with severe mental health problems.

Rather than merely expressing his own outrage, Corbyn drew on that of others. He smartly quoted Tory backbencher Heidi Allen, one of the tax credit rebels, who has called on May to "think agan" and "honour" the court's rulings. The Prime Minister protested that the government was merely returning PIPs to their "original intention" and was already spending more than ever on those with mental health conditions. But Corbyn had more ammunition, denouncing Conservative policy chair George Freeman for his suggestion that those "taking pills" for anxiety aren't "really disabled". After May branded Labour "the nasty party" in her conference speech, Corbyn suggested that the Tories were once again worthy of her epithet.

May emphasised that Freeman had apologised and, as so often, warned that the "extra support" promised by Labour would be impossible without the "strong economy" guaranteed by the Conservatives. "The one thing we know about Labour is that they would bankrupt Britain," she declared. Unlike on previous occasions, Corbyn had a ready riposte, reminding the Tories that they had increased the national debt by more than every previous Labour government.

But May saved her jibe of choice for the end, recalling shadow cabinet minister Cat Smith's assertion that the Copeland result was an "incredible achivement" for her party. "I think that word actually sums up the Right Honourable Gentleman's leadership. In-cred-ible," May concluded, with a rather surreal Thatcher-esque flourish.

Yet many economists and EU experts say the same of her Brexit plan. Having repeatedly hailed the UK's "strong economy" (which has so far proved resilient), May had better hope that single market withdrawal does not wreck it. But on Brexit, as on disability benefits, it is Conservative rebels, not Corbyn, who will determine her fate.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.