Cyprus deal: takes and double takes

The next Cyprus will be Malta.

If there is one thing today's Eurogroup statement is keen to get across, it's that deposits below €100,000 are now safe. They'll be no tax or haircuts for anyone but uninsured depositors at Cyprus' two biggest banks. That's the good news. The bad news is that the economic pain has been transferred to the financial sector, from whence it will trickle down to everyone else. There probably won't be a bank run, but there will be bank shrinkage which won't be good for Cypriots in the long term. Political contagion throughout the Eurozone will also be a big problem. And as I wrote last week, the damage to depositor trust was done the minute the 6.75 per cent tax was announced.

As Citi's Steven Englander says (my emphasis):

It makes the euro zone more susceptible to bank deposit runs in the event that banks come under question. This may make any future bank-related crisis more intense. The fact that deposit insurance was called into question so casually will make other depositors wary of policymaker assurances that they would not behave similarly. It told depositors that policymakers could act that way if they wanted to. The German FM’s comments that deposit insurance does not apply to levies and is only as good as the sovereign backing the insurance will be remembered at the next crisis. So now we have a deal that does not involve repudiating deposit insurance or imposing a levy on deposits  -- yet is has managed to raise fears of deposit insurance repudiation and deposit levies down the road.

Here's UBS’s Reinhard Cluse on what Eurozone policy-makers might do to try and restore it this trust (my emphasis):

A good aspect of today’s decision, compared with the rejected decision from 16 March, is that deposits below €100,000 will not be bailed in. In our view, European policymakers clearly realized that they had made a mistake by originally signing off the 6.75% haircut, as this arguably increased the risk of future bank runs in other periphery countries with troubled banking sectors. European policymakers where therefore keen to reverse this decision, and this was also stressed in subsequent Eurogoup statements. Nevertheless, the ‘credibility’ of the EU’s €100,000 deposit guarantee benchmark has been damaged. We therefore expect Eurozone policymakers to come out with a strong statement in due course, stressing that the €100,000 limit will be secure in the EU in the future and that this will also be written into the EU’s future bank resolution framework in the context of the European banking union project. 2.They will hope that this sends a strong signal to depositors in other troubled Eurozone countries (above all Greece, Spain) where depositors might react a lot more nervously in the future.

Marc Ostwald at Monument Securities on where to look for the next Cyprus - which will be Malta, he thinks:

Returning to Cyprus, outside of the colossal damage to the Cyrpiot economy, the other issues to consider are the precedents that this set: in the first instance, it keeps alive Mario Draghi’s promise to do “whatever it is possible” to save the Euro very much alive, though the price that the citizens of whatever country requires assistance will always need to be prepared for the principles of law and democracy to be bulldozed, and per se to be treated with the utmost disdain and contempt. To be sure, the Cypriot economic model, or rather banking model was always doomed to failure, as had already witnessed in Iceland and Ireland, and one has to ask why there was not more effort expended in addressing this, given the Icelandic collapse was now 6 years ago – this is not to say that it would have been successful, but to highlight that policymakers have been dilettante voyeurs at this particular car crash. Eminently one needs to look at other economies which are vulnerable to such a collapse, Malta to some extent, and one has to wonder a) where Russian offshore deposits will now be re-directed to – Hong Kong and Singapore look to be the most obvious beneficiaries, especially given the much closer ties that are being forged between Beijing and Moscow, for which Germany, traditionally a very close confidante of the Moscow political elite (of whatever type), may suffer, and b) the fall-out in terms of deposit outflows in the Eurozone at any point where a crisis appears to be emerging.

 

Photograph: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
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Why are boundary changes bad for Labour?

New boundaries, a smaller House of Commons and the shift to individual electoral registration all tilt the electoral battlefield further towards the Conservatives. Why?

The government has confirmed it will push ahead with plans to reduce the House of Commons to 600 seats from 650.  Why is that such bad news for the Labour Party? 

The damage is twofold. The switch to individual electoral registration will hurt Labour more than its rivals. . Constituency boundaries in Britain are drawn on registered electors, not by population - the average seat has around 70,000 voters but a population of 90,000, although there are significant variations within that. On the whole, at present, Labour MPs tend to have seats with fewer voters than their Conservative counterparts. These changes were halted by the Liberal Democrats in the coalition years but are now back on course.

The new, 600-member constituencies will all but eliminate those variations on mainland Britain, although the Isle of Wight, and the Scottish island constituencies will remain special cases. The net effect will be to reduce the number of Labour seats - and to make the remaining seats more marginal. (Of the 50 seats that would have been eradicated had the 2013 review taken place, 35 were held by Labour, including deputy leader Tom Watson's seat of West Bromwich East.)

Why will Labour seats become more marginal? For the most part, as seats expand, they will take on increasing numbers of suburban and rural voters, who tend to vote Conservative. The city of Leicester is a good example: currently the city sends three Labour MPs to Westminster, each with large majorities. Under boundary changes, all three could become more marginal as they take on more wards from the surrounding county. Liz Kendall's Leicester West seat is likely to have a particularly large influx of Tory voters, turning the seat - a Labour stronghold since 1945 - into a marginal. 

The pattern is fairly consistent throughout the United Kingdom - Labour safe seats either vanishing or becoming marginal or even Tory seats. On Merseyside, three seats - Frank Field's Birkenhead, a Labour seat since 1950, and two marginal Labour held seats, Wirral South and Wirral West - will become two: a safe Labour seat, and a safe Conservative seat on the Wirral. Lillian Greenwood, the Shadow Transport Secretary, would see her Nottingham seat take more of the Nottinghamshire countryside, becoming a Conservative-held marginal. 

The traffic - at least in the 2013 review - was not entirely one-way. Jane Ellison, the Tory MP for Battersea, would find herself fighting a seat with a notional Labour majority of just under 3,000, as opposed to her current majority of close to 8,000. 

But the net effect of the boundary review and the shrinking of the size of the House of Commons would be to the advantage of the Conservatives. If the 2015 election had been held using the 2013 boundaries, the Tories would have a majority of 22 – and Labour would have just 216 seats against 232 now.

It may be, however, that Labour dodges a bullet – because while the boundary changes would have given the Conservatives a bigger majority, they would have significantly fewer MPs – down to 311 from 330, a loss of 19 members of Parliament. Although the whips are attempting to steady the nerves of backbenchers about the potential loss of their seats, that the number of Conservative MPs who face involuntary retirement due to boundary changes is bigger than the party’s parliamentary majority may force a U-Turn.

That said, Labour’s relatively weak electoral showing may calm jittery Tory MPs. Two months into Ed Miliband’s leadership, Labour averaged 39 per cent in the polls. They got 31 per cent of the vote in 2015. Two months into Tony Blair’s leadership, Labour were on 53 per cent of the vote. They got 43 per cent of the vote. A month and a half into Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, Labour is on 31 per cent of the vote.  A Blair-style drop of ten points would see the Tories net 388 seats under the new boundaries, with Labour on 131. A smaller Miliband-style drop would give the Conservatives 364, and leave Labour with 153 MPs.  

On Labour’s current trajectory, Tory MPs who lose out due to boundary changes may feel comfortable in their chances of picking up a seat elsewhere. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog. He usually writes about politics.