Alex Massie

Paul Krugman’s Rather Odd Love Affair With Gordon Brown

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I wouldn't ever dream of debating economics with Paul Krugman*. Politics, however? Well that's a horse of a different colour. The Nobel laureate is, it seems, in Britain and he has this to say:

Weird politics here in London, with Gordon Brown desperately unpopular even (or maybe especially) among those who surely share his general ideological outlook. And yet …

...It’s not far-fetched to imagine that Britain will soon be experiencing at least a modest recovery, even as its neighbors languish.

Yet that possibility doesn’t seem to factor into any of the political discussion. Even if one grants that is true - and, who knows, perhaps it is! Let's hope so! - it still seems a pretty optimistic view and one that, one can't help but suspect, is coloured by Mr Krugman's own politics. Mr Krugman may approve of Gordon Brown and his policies but he doesn't seem to take any account of the enormous quantity of debt with which Brown has saddled this country, far less with the mistakes Brown made as Chancellor which left this country's position vis a vis the financial crisis, rather worse than it necessarily would have had to be. That is, Mr Krugman seems to think we should give Brown great credit for putting out a fire he poured flames upon in the first place. Life isn't Backdraft even if Mr Krugman thinks it is. Firefighting arsonists are still arsonists.

And, really, I suppose one should apologise on behalf of the British people for our collective failure to appreciate that Mr Krugman is correct and we are wrong and that his numbers matter more than any others and, consequently, we have all been beastly unfair to the poor, visionary, Prime Minister.

But politics isn't about economic indices. Or at least, not solely about them. If it were John Major might have won the 1997 election. But he and his party didn't deserve to just as Brown and his party don't deserve to win the next election. Exhausted parties need to be turfed out of office, regardless of economic indicators and regardless of whether or not one might, in other circumstances, have some synpathy for their default positions or attitude.

Mr Krugman's apparent bafflement is, therefore, itself somewhat baffling. Unless, that is, he really does have little to no clue about politics.

*Mind you, Mr Krugman gave a lecture in - and about - Scotland a few years ago that underwhelmed those present. "Like a bearded Woody Allan with numbers" was one of the more charitable verdicts.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

Topics in this articlePoliticseconomics