David Cameron has warned that the victory of a radical anti-austerity party in the Greek elections will “increase economic uncertainty across Europe”, as British left-wingers celebrated.
Some claim the election result, which saw Alexis Tsipras's Syriza party sweep the ruling centre-right New Democracy party from power, will plunge the euro into a fresh crisis. He has promised to renegotiate the terms of Greece's £179bn international bailout deal to strip out clauses requiring the Government implements policies of austerity.
In a message on Twitter, the Prime Minister said: “The Greek election will increase economic uncertainty across Europe. That's why the UK must stick to our plan, delivering security at home.”
“Austerity does not work for Greece, for Tory/Lib Dem UK, nor for EU; we all need investment in growth not savage cuts,” he said.
And Caroline Lucas, the Green MP, tweeted that “hope has won” and said she was “inspired by huge vote for Syriza”.
“Now the EU must listen to people and economists and respond with debt forgiveness [for Greece] and support,” she added.
French President Francois Hollande congratulated Mr Tsipras and expressed his “desire to pursue the close cooperation between our two countries in service of growth and the stability of the euro zone, in a spirit of progress, solidarity and responsibility that is at the heart of the European values we share”.
Celebrities also waded in to the debate.
Comedian Russell Brand said he would abandon his decision not to vote if there was a similar party in the UK.
“I would vote for Syriza. This is exciting,” he said.
And singer-songwriter Bill Bragg tweeted: “Yes! Syriza declare the ‘vicious cycle of austerity is over’ #anotherworldispossible.”
Actor and comedian Hugh Laurie also congratulated Greece’s new rulers.
“Bravo Syriza! Must feel like they've just won a giant edition of Storage Wars [an American reality TV show a bit like Bargain Hunt], but let's hope those boxes are full of good stuff,” he tweeted.
He ended the message with “Καλή τύχη!”, which means good luck.
However, writing in The Spectator magazine, Swedish economist Fredrik Erixon warned that the election result meant there was “guaranteed turbulence ahead, both in Greek and Eurozone politics”.
“Syriza is no club for chic leftist posturing, nor is it a discussion circle for grey-haired Marxist academics. It is a coalition of hard and soft communists, violent and peaceful revolutionaries, eco-warriors, radical socialists and a hotchpotch of lefties that think it is an act of fascism to take away bonuses to public servants for washing their hands,” he wrote.
“They are all out on a mission – and their leader is young, telegenic and compelling. In the rest of Europe, Tsipras may come across as the acceptable face of Miliband-esque or Hollande-style social democracy, its version originale, but a good part of his party is less excited about renegotiating Greece’s debt than with putting the hammer and the sickle in the EU flag.”
Mr Erixon, director of the European Centre for International Political Economy think tank, said that Mr Tsipras “may not be Prime Minister for a long time”.
“His quest to free Greece from its public debt, and make austerity history, is simply impossible,” he said. “He may be able to wring some debt relief from the hands of [German Chancellor] Angela Merkel, but it will only be an extension of Greece’s debt and some symbolic reductions in the interest rates that Greece pays its creditors.
“That gift will not come for free – Greece will only get debt relief if it’s prepared to agree to new conditions of fiscal and economic reforms. And that bargain doesn’t work for a party that has promised a return to the age of entitlements. If Tsipras accepts such a deal, he would have to renege on his key election promise.
“Tsipras only way to make Greece’s creditors malleable to his policy is to default on the debt and make a serious call to take the country out of the euro. But if Tsipras begins to trespass in Grexit territory, he would be signing his political death warrant.
“If Grexit … is not a credible threat, Tsipras will have to accept the same reality as his predecessors: beggars can’t be choosers.”
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