Krugman: Labour is “weak” in its opposition to cuts

The Nobel economist is scathing in his criticism of the two Eds – We didn’t exactly need a Nobel prize-winning economist to tell us that ‘Labour’ has been “weak” in its opposition to cuts!

Black Triangle has been screaming it from the rooftops, to no avail upto now.

‘Labour’ is scared to break with the Neoliberal orthodoxy; after all, it is still a Neoliberal party…and we wouldn’t want to upset the ‘marginal’ voters of “Middle England” in the South-East now, would we? Just be careful that us Scots don’t come up and bite you in the arse, Eds. 

By Mehdi Hasan Published in The New Statesman, 30th May 2012

Paul Krugman said Labour was "weak". Source: Getty Images

In person, Paul Krugman is short, shy and quiet. But the Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist isn’t afraid to hurl verbal hand grenades at his opponents – as I discovered to my amusement when I caught up with him on a visit to London this past week.

Krugman, who was in town to plug his new book End This Depression Now!, struggled to find anything positive to say about the EU’s leaders, President Barack Obama or the Israeli government.

But it was the Princeton University professor’s comments about the Labour Party that stood out for me.

He was scathingly critical of Labour’s “weak” opposition to the Conservative-led coalition’s spending cuts. “Certainly, economically, they’re too cautious,” he said, dismissing the party’s plan to halve the deficit over four years.

His comments will make uneasy reading for the two Eds, Balls and Miliband, who are petrified of being tagged as “deficit deniers” by their right-wing critics. Under pressure from the Blairites inside the party, they have been trying to find the right balance between opposing the coalition’s austerity measures in the short run and supporting deficit reduction and cuts in the long run.

Krugman seemed to have little sympathy for them: Labour’s position on austerity, he told me, “has been a kind of ‘We’re like them but only less so’. And it does come across as fairly weak.”

He continued: “It does seem odd that when you ask me: ‘Where is the really effective intellectual opposition coming from?’, it seems to be think-tank people and journalists. The opposition is Martin Wolf [of the Financial Times], Jonathan Portes [of the National Institute for Economic and Social Research], Simon Wren-Lewis [of Oxford University], David Blanchflower [of the New Statesman] and me.”

That, he said, is a “sad commentary” on the state of Her Majesty’s Opposition.

To add insult to injury, the Nobel laureate had high praise and much sympathy for Miliband’s predecessor, the much-maligned Gordon Brown. “He has been treated unfairly by history,” he said. “Yes, [Brown] made mistakes, but he is a much better guy than his current reputation suggests.”

I asked Krugman if he stood by his now-famous October 2008 description of the former prime minister as the leader who “saved the world financial system”. The economist nodded furiously. “Yes, he took the lead on the financial rescue which did save the world,” he told me. Without [Brown’s leadership], things would have been much, much worse. He was a smart guy.”

Krugman, a long-standing critic of the European single currency, was also keen to remind me how it was Brown who, as chancellor of the exchequer during the late 1990s, “kept Britain out of the euro. It would be a catastrophe here if Britain were in the euro.”

My full interview with the professor will appear in the New Statesman later this year.

The New Statesman

Comments
  • DAVID A SHAW June 5, 2012 at 10:53 am

    Their inaction speaks for itself, a party run by neo-liberals who are totally out of touch with their grass roots membership.

  • jeffrey davies June 5, 2012 at 11:07 am

    no its both partys who brought us to this where the poor pay the way of the rich and greed rules instead of a fare society but camerooon just said on tv you dont pay evil with evil buts thats whot he and his party are doing put are not for turning so for the sick and disabled will loose a few more deaths and then perhaps the population will wake up to whot they doing to the sick and disabled with thier get rich policy for thier companies and friends who toe the party line and pay some of it back to them so camerooon hear whot you say open your ears to whot you preach not to give evil with evil thats whot you doing with your stick called atos and dwp thees some of your evil now open your eyes i think not as you say you not for turning mores the pity jeff3

  • kath June 8, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    Exactly how did Gordo save anything? he touted ‘light touch’ regulation of the financial markets that perpetrated this huge fraud

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