Paul Krugman Endorses the Liberal Democrats and the FT and Economist abandon their principles

For sure, Gordon Brown — like the Rubinites here in America — made the great mistake of buying into the promises of high finance. But is there any doubt that a Tory government would have done the same?

And I understand the sense that Labour has been in office too long. If I were British, I might well consider voting Lib Dem.

That’s nobel prize winner and all round good egg Paul Krugman today.

But its not just him who are confused that anyone would support the Tories, the endorsement for the Tories from the Financial Times and The Economist have brought some other big guns of the American Blogosphere out in shock. Brad DeLong succinctly titles his post “The Financial Times and the London Economist Lose Their Minds.”

DeLong quotes Matthew Yglesias who explains why so many across the pond are confused that the Tories are being widely supported by our press.

[The] FT, in the course of endorsing David Cameron, concedes that “As a crisis manager, Gordon Brown has been a better premier than his critics claim” and simply doesn’t say anything about the substance of the Tories’ opposition to stimulus, a policy that had it been adopted would have sank the economy.

The Economist does take this issue head-on and concludes that the Tories “were wrong to oppose the economic stimulus after the banking crash” but endorses them anyway….

Britain confronted a giant economic challenge and the center-right party responded with such bad policies that even center-right business-focused newspapers think they were wrong, but… [urge] voters are urged to vote Tory anyway…

I’m no Brown fan, but the Tories have managed to get pretty much every important call of this financial crisis and recession wrong.

These papers both once supported Labour and have been relatively impressed with Labour’s performance throughout this recession but they are breaking ranks now. But what strikes me is that they are really unenthusiastically breaking ranks.

The only convincing explanation is that they’re doing this because they’re rats and the Labour Party appears to be sinking. The Tories are not doing dreadfully and are certainly in the ascendant even as their poll lead wobbles.

This makes sense for these papers, they have their circulation to think about and that will partially rely on the access they can get to the next Government and they are betting on a Tory win. This seems a sensible policy even if the Lib Dems do well, they are not going to begrudge a non-endorsement from papers they were not expecting to back them anyway.

However, the support from across the pond for the anyone but the Tories vote illustrates just how foolish their economic pronouncements have been at times. These American bloggers don’t have particular axes to grind against the Tory party, they’ve just looked at the policies and personalities and decided they are a really unsafe pair of hands.

Can’t say I blame them really. I’m glad that David Rendel now has the nobel laureate vote sewn up.

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9 thoughts on “Paul Krugman Endorses the Liberal Democrats and the FT and Economist abandon their principles

  1. I’ve been an Economist subscriber for some time and surely LO you expected them to come out for Cameron? That tend to back a winning horse esp. one that leans to the right.

    Doesn’t make them any less wrong of course but to be expected.

    1. I’ve subscribed for a while too, good paper with actual facts in, which makes a nice change, even if I disagree with a lot of their analysis.

      I’m not particularly surprised, just a little disappointed they didn’t do something more ballsy like back the Lib Dems. After all it was set up in the 1840s by someone who went on to be a Liberal MP.

      The Economist is certainly coming down very pro-cut now (which is where the Tories have a natural advantage) but they have had major disagreements with much else Cameron has said. It was their report on how Britain is not Broken that best eviscerated this boring Tory Slogan, worth reappraising any time a Tory gets all miserable on your ass.

      http://www.economist.com/opinion/displaystory.cfm?story_id=15452867

      Interestingly, they don’t always back the winning horse it seems, so my analysis above appears a little lacking in something. In 1997 they backed John Major, here’s a copy of their leader that day:

      http://freethinkingeconomist.com/2010/04/30/two-contrasting-endorsements/#comment-3695

      1. Now that does surprise me. I remember the dread with which they back Bush the first time around…I mean, come on! Nothing is past them, if you can blink and are right -leaning the Economist will fancy you…not in that way obviously…

        1. Of course they did back the Tories in all but one election from 1951 to 2001 so surprise I am not, but yeah, Brown isn’t promising too much beyond the realms of what the Economist want.

          No break for the unions, no change in monetary policy, a commitment to low inflation, a sceptical eye on the Euro, a commitment to cuts, even if small than the Tories, committed to keeping trident etc. Likewise, the Labour response to the crisis has been closer to what the Economist’s would have been than has the Tories.

          The Tories are still very illiberal in lots of ways and I think The Economist has really bought into the new liberal social settlement Labour have helped midwife (if not already committed to almost all of it), the country is very different now compared to the “Back to Basics” days and that is something which the Economist has embraced and is linked with Labour.

          But with the Tories approaching something like their old election winning ways and a chance at power for someone more right of centre I suppose a lot of the staff at the Economist must have thought, “Dave’s not so bad and he’ll be able to keep Gideon and Redwood in line” or something.

  2. Fair play, but if I were you, I’d take American political commentators’ opinions with several grains of salt. Speaking from personal experience, the likelihood that they really understand the parliamentary system in this country is slim, and they probably don’t take into account the massive differences between the American economy and the British one.

    Paul Krugman, on the other hand, may have a point, but while he hasn’t got a political axe to grind, he’s certainly got an economic one. As one of the most vocal adovcates of the stimulus in America, he can hardly condemn it here and support its opponents.

    1. I’ve always thought we had stupid system then I remember the electoral college and rememebr things could be worse, but I digress.

      The odds of them understanding the parliamentary system aren’t going to be too high, but not negligible either. I think they understand the economics of the situation well though. All three above were proponents of the stimulus and loose monetary policy but so were the FT and Economist, yet their reactions are utterly different.

      Some of that difference will come from a different understanding of the electoral prospects in this country, a lot of it will. I’m not sure that reflect well on the FT and Economist though, they’re meant to be the principled press (damning with faint praise of course, but compare this from The Independent to this from The Economist).

      The FT and Economist on matters non-economic are certainly closer to the Liberals and Labour. The Tories pro-civil liberties credentials are wafer thin and I doubt they would have been much less authoritarian if they were involved in the “war on terror.”

      I’ve always wondered what Americans must thing of our three parties all occupying space to the left of their two (if they consider it at all). Although I’ve seen relatively little comment on our election from the blogs I follow the FT and Economist’s declarations appear to have drawn some comment. Guess its just doesn’t feature in their news cycle.

  3. I wonder how many Economist subscribers are like me, and read it because of its social liberalism and extensive international news coverage, and so suffer its somewhat naive markets-are-great-always-and-the-public-sector-always-bloated economic liberalism? Judging by the website comments section on the Economist leader backing the Tories, we’re a sizeable number.

    Like Daniel I was expecting the Economist to back the Tories, it just seemed inevitable, but I am still baffled. They haven’t given a very good explanation of *why* they back them, and like the FT, seem to support the Tories for what they wish they would be rather than for what they are, and for the actual confused and contradictory policies the Tories are promoting, and which are often the opposite of what both The Economist and the FT have supported in the past.

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