Sunday, 25 January 2015

Greece speaks

As I write this the news is coming in that Greece’s radical left party, Syriza, will be the dominant force in Greek politics after the elections there. It is currently unclear if Syriza will win enough seats to form a majority government. What is clear is that Syriza’s triumph will have implications across Europe including in the UK. Our economy is healing but still very delicate and the slightest shock could knock it off course. Syriza’s anti-cuts policy could be that shock.

I can understand the Greek people choosing to turn their backs on what they regard as Brussels imposed austerity. Without a Greek central bank to make it cheaper for Greeks to borrow, and cheaper for foreigners to buy Greek goods, Greece has suffered terrible since the credit crunch. According to the European Commission last year one in every four Greeks was unemployed.[1] Contrast this with the record number of people in work in the UK, and you can start to imagine the pain of the Greek people. Many Greeks feel they are being forced to make cuts for Brussels, while Brussels and the European Central Bank does nothing to help them. It is completely understandable that Syriza’s defiant message appeals to them.

There may be consequences for the UK from Greece’s decision. I respect and empathise with the sovereign will of the Greek people, and I wouldn’t dare tell them what they should do. However, David Cameron’s government has had to make difficult decisions to put the UK on the path to a secure future. The Prime Minister also acknowledges to reach that better, brighter future more difficult decisions will be needed. If, as a result of this Greek election, the European economy and financial system is plunged into chaos again those decisions will become even harder to make.

That is why it is important that we have a government that has shown it has a long-term economic plan. If our economy receives a shock we need to have politicians in place with a plan for dealing with that. Under David Cameron and George Osborne Britain is creating more jobs than any other major economy is, wages are starting to get ahead of prices, and our deficit has been halved. That is a record that shows that, if the Greek elections do set off a chain reaction across Europe, we have a team in government capable of dealing with it. It is yet another reason to trust the Conservatives to deliver the secure, brighter future we all want.

[1] Eurostat, Unemployment Statistics, November 2014, link