The best things I’ve read lately (General Election hot takes edition)

Labour didn’t lose the election because of Scotland by James Bloodworth (Left Foot Forward)

it would be a mistake to claim the election was lost in Scotland. Labour has performed disastrously right across the UK due to a lacklustre campaign that was big on financial bean counting but devoid of vision. Miliband ditched New Labour but, beyond a basket of populist gimmicks he struggled to find anything with which to replace it. He paid lip service to inequality but convinced few people that he had the mettle to challenge it. He zigzagged on immigration in an attempt to please everyone and predictably pleased no-one. As for foreign policy – well, did anybody even know?

Faced with a resurgent Conservative party that will now believe it has carte blanche to hack away at what’s left of the welfare state, the General Election isn’t just a calamity for the Labour party; it’s a disaster for the country. Think more food banks, bourgeoning inequality and a further deterioration of the NHS. Nick Clegg may have been the left-wing bogeyman of the last five years, but we may look back on the recent coalition as a period of civility and restraint when compared to what’s about to follow.

7 key facts about austerity and the UK election by Matthew Yglesias (Vox)

Regardless of what you think of David Cameron, it looks clear that the United Kingdom is notcurrently in a severe labor market recession. That means that on a forward-looking basis, there are no real grounds for an ongoing austerity debate.

The real debate concerns the past. Cameron and his coalition partner Nick Clegg say that had they not moved to swift fiscal consolidation in the past, the United Kingdom would have been at risk of a Greek-style financial market panic and total meltdown.

It is difficult, in practice, to see how this would have happened. A loss of investor confidence in the fiscal position of the government would have resulted in a falling value of the pound and an expansion/inflationary monetary environment. A falling pound and an expansionary/inflationary monetary environment are exactly what the UK got under austerity. On the other hand, the success of the Bank of England in achieving an expansionary monetary environment in the context of fiscal austerity suggests that fears of austerity crushing the economy were also somewhat misplaced.

Austerity was neither necessary to avoid a meltdown nor sufficient to wreck the labor market. It was simply a policy choice to emphasize small government, less spending, and more employment in the private service sector rather than a more expansive welfare state with more public sector employment.

History will judge Nick Clegg more kindly than the voters have by James Kirkup (Daily Telegraph)

In a cynical age, a lot of people think politicians are entirely self-serving, creatures who just do things to win votes, score points and advance their own careers. The Lib Dem decision to go into government in 2010 is at least a partial challenge to that notion. Yes, the Lib Dems were rewarded for that decision, enjoying ministerial careers many had never even dared to dream of. But they paid a terrible price for it and many knew they would too. They hoped to be thanked for the Coalition’s successes, but feared being punished for its shortcomings. They didn’t stay just for ministerial red box and a chauffeur-driven car; only a few Lib Dems actually got ministerial jobs. Yet even the grassroots activists far removed from the centre of power stuck resolutely with the coalition, believing to doing so was in the interests of people other than themselves.

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