David Cameron says "red warning lights" are flashing for another economic crunch. Photo: Getty
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David Cameron's warning of another global recession could help the Tories

The Prime Minister cautions that we are on the brink of another global economic meltdown, but this could be politically expedient for his party.

David Cameron warns that we could be on the verge of another global recession. He refers to "red warning lights" flashing once again signalling another economic meltdown could be on the way, in an article for the GuardianHis opening paragraph reads:

Six years on from the financial crash that brought the world to its knees, red warning lights are once again flashing on the dashboard of the global economy.

In the piece, he writes of the economy worldwide potentially slowing down due to current affairs crises such as the ebola outbreak, the tempestuous situation in Ukraine and the Middle East, the eurozone's difficulties, and slow growth in emerging markets, as well as mentioning "stalled" global trade talks.

Labour's shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, Chris Leslie, has responded to this article suggesting Cameron is simply "making excuses for slower growth", referring to borrowing "going up so far this year" and exports falling "behind our competitors".

However, the Prime Minister's intervention is a tricky one for his opponents, because it is politically expedient for the Conservatives to suggest that the global economy remains precarious. Throughout his piece, Cameron uses the phrase "long-term plan", which is a clear echo of the Tories' slogan du jour "long-term economic plan". The way the party is fighting the upcoming election is to suggest that the only path to achieving financial stability is to stick with the government that has been tackling, with some effect, our economic problems for over four years, and not to risk changing the strategy by voting in a different party.

Cameron is undoubtedly preparing the country for the Chancellor having to explain, in the imminent Autumn Statement, awkward figures like why borrowing is increasing, and any corresponding harsh economic policies. However, as elements of a national economic recovery set in, and the Tories creep ahead in the polls, it seems the fact that they are still more trusted than the Labour party on the economy means that warning of future external destabilising factors could work in their favour. It has the added benefit of putting the economy, on which the Tories can speak with some authority, back at the top of the political agenda, as opposed to Ukip-friendly subjects such as immigration and Europe.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.

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Leader: The angry middle

As a sense of victimhood extends even to the middle classes, it makes Western democracies much more difficult to govern.

Two months after the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union, it remains conventional wisdom that the referendum result was largely a revolt by the so-called left behind. Yet this is not the full picture. Many of the 52 per cent who voted Leave were relatively prosperous and well educated, yet still angry and determined to deliver a shock to the political system. We should ask ourselves why the English middle class, for so long presumed to be placid and risk-averse, was prepared to gamble on Brexit.

Populism has long appealed to those excluded from political systems, or from a share in prosperity. In recent years, however, its appeal has broadened to young graduates and those on above-average incomes who also feel that they have not benefited from globalisation. The sense of middle-class victimhood has become a major strand in Western politics.

In the United States, middle-class anger has powered support for Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. The former drew his activist base mostly from young liberals. And while Mr Trump’s success in the Republican primaries was often attributed to a working-class insurrection against “the elites”, exit poll data showed that the median yearly income of a Trump voter was $72,000, compared with a national average of $56,000. (For supporters of Hillary Clinton, the figure was roughly $61,000.) It is not the have-nots who have powered Mr Trump’s rise, but the have-a-bits.

In the UK, similar forces can be seen in the rise of Jeremy Corbyn. Indeed, research shows that three-quarters of Labour Party members are from the top social grades, known as ABC1. About 57 per cent have a degree.

Mr Sanders, Mr Trump and Mr Corbyn have very different policies, ideologies and strategies, but they are united by an ability to tap into middle-class dissatisfaction with the present order. Some of that anger flows from politicians’ failure to convey the ways in which society has improved in recent years, or to speak truthfully to electorates. In the UK and much of the West, there have been huge gains – life expectancy has risen, absolute poverty has decreased, teenage pregnancy has fallen to a record low, crime rates have fallen, and huge strides have been made in curbing gender, sexual and racial discrimination. Yet we hear too little of these successes.

Perhaps that is why so many who are doing comparatively well seem the most keen to upset the status quo. For instance, pensioners voted strongly to leave the EU and are the demographic from which Ukip attracts most support. Yet the over-65s are enjoying an era of unprecedented growth in their real incomes. Since 2010, the basic state pension has risen by over four times the increase in average earnings. 

Among young people, much of their anger is directed towards tuition fees and the iniquities of the housing market. Yet, by definition, tuition fees are paid only by those who go into higher education – and these people receive a “graduate bonus” for the rest of their lives. Half of school-leavers do not attend university and, in a globalised world, it is their wages that are most likely to be undercut by immigration.

However, we should not be complacent about the concerns of the “angry middle”. The resentment exploited by Donald Trump is the result of 40 years of stagnant median wages in the United States. In Japan and Germany, median wages have not increased in the past two decades. In the UK, meanwhile, the median income for those aged 31-59 is no greater than it was in 2007, and those aged 22-30 are 7 per cent worse off, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

To compound the problem, the wealthy keep getting wealthier. In 1980, American CEOs were paid 42 times the wage of the average worker. They are now paid 400 times as much. In the UK, the share of household income going to the top 1 per cent has more than doubled since 1979. Because of our hyperconnected, globalised media culture, we see more of the super-rich, fuelling feelings of resentment.

As a sense of victimhood extends even to the middle classes, it makes Western democracies much more difficult to govern, with voters oscillating between populists of the left and the right. The political centre is hollowing out. Rather than pander to the populists, we must do more to quell the politics of victimhood by addressing the root of this corrosive sense of grievance: entrenched inequality. 

This article first appeared in the 25 August 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Cameron: the legacy of a loser