By Paul Goodman
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Standard and Poors has struck again, downgrading the European Financial Stability Facility, and the Eurozone was thus rocked again, leaving George Osborne no alternative but to answer difficult questions during his tour of the far east, which he will have hoped would be an easy ride. The Express quotes him as follows:
“If I felt it was a decent request by the IMF, then of course I would be willing to go to Parliament and make that request,” he said.
“Britain has always been prepared to provide resources in the past and will be willing to provide resources in the future, if there is a strong case.
“But let me be clear, I would not do that with Britain acting alone and we are very clear this is not a substitute for the eurozone providing money for dealing with its own currency.”
The Chancellor will not want to incur the anger of Conservative backbenchers by trying to bale out out the Eurozone, and he will not want to take the blame abroad for not helping to do so. Hence the hedging about "a decent request". He will also, of course, not want to lose a vote on the floor of the Commons.
Which could happen. Tim counted 32 Tory rebels when the house voted last summer on a proposal to increase Britain IMF contribution by £9.3 billion – or 88%. Labour also voted against the proposal, arguing simultaneously that the Government wasn't active enough internationally and that the rise should be opposed.
Ed Balls is trying to replicate the pincer movement on the Major Government at the time of the Maastricht Treaty: an alliance of Labour plus the Conservative rebels. In the event of a vote, the latter will argue that Britain is simply throwing good money after bad – effectively to fund more of the medicine, the Euro, which is sickening the patient, Europe.
Who could reasonably argue with that? And of course any plan for a vote on more IMF money could plunge David Cameron back into the party management crisis from which his summit veto rescued him.