Angela Merkel and François Hollande during a press conference after their meeting at the Elysee Palace tonight. Photograph: Getty Images.
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No relief in sight for Greece as Germany and the ECB toughen stances

Merkel warns that it is up to Tsipras to make new proposals as the country's banks are put under further strain. 

One of the main arguments made by Alexis Tsipras for a No vote in the Greek referendum was that it would strengthen his government's bargaining power. But a day after the country's decisive rejection of the previous eurozone offer, there is little sign that it has done so. At her joint press conference this evening with François Hollande following their meeting, Angela Merkel emphasised that the onus was on Greece to come forward with "very specific proposals" (offering no immediate concessions of her own) and even went as far as to describe the previous package as "generous". Sigmar Gabriel, Germany's vice chancellor and the leader of Merkel's coalition partners, the Social Democrats, has declared that "The ultimate insolvency of the country seems to be imminent". 

Hollande, as before, took a more accommodative stance. But while stating that "the door is open" (though not as open as he would like), he warned that "There’s not a lot of time left. There is urgency for Greece and there is urgency for Europe". Valdis Dombrovskis, the European Commissioner for the euro, similarly concluded that "The no result unfortunately widens the gulf between Greece and other eurozone countries … There is no easy way out of this crisis. Too much time and too many opportunities have been lost."

It is time that is indeed the biggest obstacle to a deal. Greek's banks are close to running out of cash (one of the four biggest is reported to be on the brink). But the European Central Bank, the institution keeping them afloat, has again capped the level of emergency liquidity at €89bn. Rather than offering greater relief, it has tightened the noose by forcing the banks to provide more assets to the Bank of Greece as security against the loans. Robert Peston reports that this has reduced the spare cash-raising capacity of the banks from €17-20bn to between €5-7bn. By acting in this way, the ECB has opened itself to the charge that it has exceeded its mandate by intervening in a political dispute. 

The danger is that unless Greece makes immediate progress with the troika in the next two days, the banks will no longer able to function even at their current limited level (with ATM withdrawals limited to €60 a day and overseas transactions banned). Such a financial collapse would force Greece to leave the euro in order to allow its banks to issue a new and heavily devalued currency. Few are confident that it will be able to make a scheduled payment of €3.5bn to the ECB in two weeks' times. 

Of the three main possible outcomes to the crisis - a long-term deal to keep Greece in the euro, another short-term financing arrangement ("kicking the can down the road" as it has become known) or Grexit - it is the third that appears ever more likely. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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How the Democratic National Committee Chair contest became a proxy war

The two leading candidates represent the Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders factions.

While in the UK this week attention has been fixed on the by-elections in Stoke-upon-Trent and Copeland, in the US political anoraks have turned their eyes to Atlanta, the capital city of the state of Georgia, and the culmination of the Democratic National Committee chairmanship election.

Democrats lost more than a President when Barack Obama left the White House - they lost a party leader. In the US system, the party out of power does not choose a solitary champion to shadow the Presidency in the way a leader of the opposition shadows the Prime Minister in the UK. Instead, leadership concentrates around multiple points at the federal, state and local level - the Senate Minority and House Minority Leaders’ offices, popular members of Congress, and high-profile governors and mayors.

Another focus is the chair of the national party committee. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) is the formal governing body of the party and wields immense power over its organization, management, and messaging. Membership is exclusive to state party chairs, vice-chairs and over 200 state-elected representatives. The chair sits at the apex of the body and is charged with carrying out the programs and policies of the DNC. Put simply, they function as the party’s chief-of-staff, closer to the role of General Secretary of the Labour Party than leader of the opposition.

However, the office was supercharged with political salience last year when the then-chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, was exposed following a Russian-sponsored leak of DNC emails that showed her leadership favoured Hillary Clinton as the party’s presidential nominee to Bernie Sanders. Schultz resigned and Donna Brazile, former campaign manager for Al Gore in 2000, took over as interim chair. The DNC huddled in December to thrash out procedure for the election of a permanent replacement – fixing the date of the ballot for the weekend of February 24.

The rancour of the Democratic primaries last year, and the circumstances of Schultz’s resignation, has transformed the race into a proxy war between the Clinton and Sanders factions within the party. Frontrunners Tom Perez and Keith Ellison respectively act as standard bearers for the respective camps.

Both are proven progressives with impeccable records in grassroots-based organizing. However Perez’s tenure as President Obama’s Labor Secretary and role as a Hillary booster has cast him as the establishment candidate in the race, whereas Ellison’s endorsement of the Sanders campaign in 2016 makes him the pick of the radical left.

The ideological differences between the two may be overblown, but cannot be overlooked in the current climate. The Democrats are a party seemingly at war with its base, and out of power nationwide.

Not only are they in the minority in Congress, but more than a third of the Democrats in the House of Representatives come from just three states: California, Massachusetts, and New York. As if that weren’t enough, Democrats control less than a third of state legislatures and hold the keys to just sixteen governors’ mansions.

Jacob Schwartz, president of the Manhattan Young Democrats, the official youth arm of the Democratic Party in New York County, says that the incoming chair should focus on returning the party to dominance at every tier of government:

“The priority of the Democratic leadership should be rebuilding the party first, and reaching out to new voters second," he told me. "Attacking Donald Trump is not something the leadership needs to be doing. He's sinking his own ship anyway and new voters are not going to be impressed by more negative campaigning. A focus on negative campaigning was a big part of why Hillary lost.”

The party is certainly in need of a shake-up, though not one that causes the internecine strife currently bedevilling the Labour Party. Hence why some commentators favour Ellison, whose election could be seen as a peace offering to aggrieved Sanderistas still fuming at the party for undermining their candidate.

“There's something to be said for the fact that Ellison is seen as from the Bernie wing of the party, even though I think policy shouldn't be part of the equation really, and the fact that Bernie voices are the voices we most need to be making efforts to remain connected to. Hillary people aren't going anywhere, so Ellison gives us a good jumping off point overall,” says Schwartz.

Ellison boasts over 120 endorsements from federal and state-level Democratic heavyweights, including Senator Sanders, and the support of 13 labor unions. Perez, meanwhile, can count only 30 politicians – though one is former Vice-President Joe Biden – and eight unions in his camp.

However the only constituency that matters this weekend is the DNC itself – the 447 committee members who can vote. A simple majority is needed to win, and if no candidate reaches this threshold at the first time of asking additional rounds of balloting take place until a winner emerges.

Here again, Ellison appears to hold the edge, leading Perez 105 to 57 according to a survey conducted by The Hill, with the remainder split among the other candidates.

Don’t write Perez off yet, though. Anything can happen if the ballot goes to multiple rounds and the former Secretary’s roots in the party run deep. He claimed 180 DNC supporters in an in-house survey, far more than suggested by The Hill.

We’ll find out this weekend which one was closer to the mark.

Louie Woodall is a member of Labour International, and a journalist based in New York.