Greece And Eurozone Crisis Stuns The Commentariat Into Silence
The world appears to be holding its breath ahead of a vote of confidence in a small southern European country, the results of which could have serious implications for the global financial system. Late on Friday evening Greek MPs will decide whether to kick George Papandreou out of office, a vote timed to have minimal impact on the markets, which will be closed in Europe and New York at the time.
Until then we seem to be in a state of pregnant pause. And nobody's talking. You might expect at a time of high stakes like this you'd have think tanks, industry associations and political parties all squawking about what should happen next. Instead we have silence.
Journalists are waiting for a news conference by David Cameron early on Friday afternoon, but it's not clear at this stage whether the PM will have anything meaningful to say. ITV's Business Editor Laura Kuenssberg has blogged on an early draft of a G20 communiqué, expected to be released later. She believes there will be little in the way of concrete solutions.
As The Economist's Bagheot column has noted, even the Eurosceptic British press has been surprisingly quiet about developments in Cannes over the past 24 hours.
Political commentary in the UK has been subdued. Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls has said very little on the crisis, except that there should be no IMF funding to plug the gap in the bailout fund. George Osborne and David Cameron have acknowledged that Britain's contributions to the IMF will rise, but they haven't said by how much.
Douglas McWilliams, chief executive of the Centre for Economic and Business Research, told Huffpost UK: "Most people have been muted because they don't want to risk being accused of worsening the crisis and triggering a problem. Also most Brits don't want to have to say 'I told you so' or to appear to be dancing on the euro's grave."
It seems unlikely that many Tories will remain quiet if it turns out that Britain's IMF contributions are to rise substantially. Yet so far very few of them have stepped on their soap-box, even though the chancellor has paved the way for announcing such increases.
Eurosceptic Conservative MP for Wellingborough Peter Bone told Sky News on Friday morning: "The Prime Minister has said that no British money would go into bailing out Greece. So whilst I am not against putting money into the IMF, I'm very much against the IMF using the money to support the Eurozone, which is not their traditional role.
It would rather like putting money into Florida or Yorkshire. It's quite a ridiculous idea. The people responsible for the Eurozone should bail out the Eurozone, and that's principally Germany and France."
The next key developments might not come until Saturday, once the result of the Greek confidence motion has been decided in Athens. Until then the situation appears too fluid and enormous for anyone to pin down the issues - with no 'good' solution to the crisis in the offing. Charles Jenkins from the Economist Intelligence Unit told Sky: "If Greece did exit [the Euro] then the pressure would turn to other countries, at the moment that country looks most likely to be Italy, that pressure would increase if Greece were to exit.
"Whether Greece would have more freedom by leaving the Euro is an open question. In some ways they would, but they would still have the need to close their government accounts, they'd still have to make expenditure match revenue, and that requires hugely difficult choices at the moment."