I went for a long lie down in a cool room this afternoon after a morning full of chores, followed by a lunchtime laying gravel, and then bordering it with rocks the size of Earth-threatening asteroids.
All of this, I’m here to tell you, was less tiring than Deadline Fatigue – a new board-game for all the family invented by the Eurogroupe-Varoufakis-IMF Toy Company.
I’m up and about again now, preparing dinner while lighting the fire-pit outside because the weather’s gone a little grey and chilly here. Things also seem to have gone a little chilly in the ‘tough’ negotiations between sound economics on the one hand, and Jeroboam Drivelclown on the other. Tough or not, this ridiculous paint-drying championship could have been predicted from Day One.
I shrink, as always, from the limelight; but as it happens, The Slog did piss off just about everyone at the outset by suggesting there were no grounds at all for optimism on the subject of compromise.
I posted this gentle mickey-take on the chances of building bridges between Frankfurt and Athens last January 28th. What followed was obduracy after obduracy: the Draghi/Schauble ambush of Yanis Varoufakis in late February, and the rise and rise of their Dutch bumboy Dieselbang…with Pristine Lowgrade joining the ‘non’ tendency despite a Varoufakis attempt to charm the charmless.
The timeline, as one looks back now, really is almost funny: Greece must default on February 26th, then March 11th, then March24th, then April 14th. Reuters might just as well have had a daily column called ‘Another day, another deadline’.
All this week we’ve been fed with spin about ‘rapid progress being made’, but today’s free-for-all presser was nothing more than a statement of the obvious: the two sides are no nearer a compromise today than they were almost three months ago to the day.
The following realities need to be borne in mind in this poker marathon:
1. The weak card in the Syriza hand is without doubt that they have a mandate to tell Brussels to piss off, but not to take Greece out of the euro.
2. Over 50% of all Greeks believe they could be kicked out of the euro, although legally this is an impossibility.
3. The weak card in the Troika2 hand is that – despite what the markets might suggest now – the reality of a Greek default within the eurozone is that discontent contagion will swiftly follow….and whether or not that’s reflected immediately in bond yield spikes is neither here nor there. The markets would have to be deficient in all the primary senses not to spot that rebellion on such a scale spelt the end of the euro.
4. If Troika2 really was comfortable with the idea of Greek default, they would’ve engineered it by now: you are a boxer and you have the other guy on the ropes….do you just tickle him under the armpits and spin things out until the bell goes for the end of the round? I think not. Bear in mind that twice now, Draghi has continued to drip feed ELA funds to Greek banks. It is a very odd general indeed who plays to keep his enemies in the game.
5. Far away to the West, we are a little over 12 days away from the UK General Election. Nigel Farage is very excited because a new poll in the constituency he’s fighting – Thanet – puts him nine points clear…when just two weeks ago he looked in danger of losing. This is Nigel looking very excited:
Nigel gets excited by almost anything…a media crew, a flood, a camel hair coat, a pint of Old Scrotum and so on. But if there really is a Ukip surge about to take off, while it is highly unlikely to deliver more than four seats in total, this will nevertheless represent a third front opening against beleaguered Brussels-am-Berlin: not only an austerity rebellion in Greece and euro rebellions in Italy and Spain, but suddenly an EU rebellion in Britain. Marine Le Pen in France may very well intensify in the nightmare in two years time.
I do think now that the time is long past when anyone can credibly raise an argument to say that Master Tactician Yanis Varoufakis knows exactly what he’s up to, and every step is carefully planned: as I have written before, Yanis overestimated the leverage available to produce a compromise, and Troika2 drastically underestimated the unwillingness of the Greek electorate to buy into any more “serves you right” bollocks.
I still believe that in late February Varoufakis should have revealed the Eurogroupe perfidy and walked away from the ambush. But all this is now water under the bridge. The reality is that if a deal were to be reached now, it would have zero credibility in the markets, and a Syriza having done that deal would have zero electoral credibility at home.
Yanis thought it necessary to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that Syriza was holding an olive branch, whereas the Troikanauts were wielding baseball bats. I suspect this was the truth: but it’s not the way the Western MSM have portrayed it.
The only honourable path ahead for Tsipras and Varoufakis now is to say, “Right – do your worst: we are not going to accept your neoliberal crap thinly disguised as “reform”. We will default inside the eurozone: let’s see how you like them apples”.