The Week in Politics: Time to stock up on canned food
If your interest in economics is defined by the question 'at what point do I need to start stockpiling canned food', this is the part where you might wish to pay attention.
By Ian Dunt Follow @IanDunt
Yet another much-touted plan to save the eurozone fell apart when Greek prime minister George Papandreou decided to unilaterally announce a referendum. It must be quite fun to offhandedly deliver a piece of news that drives everyone screaming into the streets and to his credit Papandreou looked entirely unflustered by it all. This was not the case for investors or European leaders. Nicholas Sarkozy was so enraged he could barely summon any diplomatic language at all, even while hosting the G20 – usually a masterclass in vacuous back-patting. Half way through the week he was admitting, for the first time, that Greece could leave the EU. By the end, he was telling Brits that, because we come from an island, we "cannot understand the subtlety of European construction".
Eventually the referendum was cancelled, after a visit to the headmaster. A couple of people muttered something resentful about national sovereignty, which was really the only light-hearted moment of the week. It was too late anyway. The confidence of the eurozone deal had dissipated and Athens would continue to overshadow the G20 meeting in Cannes.
Back in Westminster, the finance minister accidently let slip that the Treasury was war-gaming on the eventuality of a total collapse of the European currency. Behind the stage, machinations were taking place to make sure the government wouldn't lose a vote on increased IMF subscription fees. Cameron literally obfuscated for England when he pretended IMF funds are for the world (they'll be heading straight for Europe or I will eat my face), and that there was "headroom" in the last Commons vote for him not to hold another one. In truth, Tory eurosceptics are feeling confident, like the guy that got the girl, and are likely to act in all sorts of arrogant and self-congratulatory ways, one of which would include walking with Ed Balls into the no lobby. The government won't take the risk and if they have to 'Resolution 1441' it, they will.
The chaos was being felt everywhere, from Westminster, to the streets of Athens, to the encampment in Wall Street. Nowhere was it more enjoyable than at St Paul's, though, where a handful of activists had triggered a masterclass in how not to handle a media situation by the Church of England. The dozens of tents outside the cathedral prompted the resignation of two sympathetic figures, then a third resignation, this time of an unsympathetic figure. By the next day the church had swerved off course again, with the Archbishop of Canterbury issuing statements about how wonderful the demonstrators were and how important it is to tax financial transactions. The City of London, which would have merrily hired South African mercenaries to shoot everyone in the face if only people weren't looking, reluctantly backed down.
Rowan William's article found unusual support from Cameron himself. The PM claims to support a financial transactions tax 'in theory' but he does so with the conviction of someone being forced to make a hostage video. The Tory leader said Dr Williams "spoke for the country" in an unusual PMQs during which he and Ed Miliband tried to appear more left-wing than each other, like some alternate version of usual political reality where the Daily Mail encourages everyone to be optimistic and tolerant. They had their reasons, of course. Growth sits at 0.5% – a figure considered positive by Treasury spinners. And the public are only slightly less irritated with the financial sector than those people camping outside St Paul's. Yep, the end of days is upon us. Brits are becoming left wing. It’s not too late to buy some canned tuna and sharpen your spear, you know.