As I write this, some of the best-paid brains in Europe are puzzling over what happens when the inevitable suddenly becomes impossible.
For the past half-decade, Greece was run by machine politicians who took orders from their northern European creditors and stamped on their own voters – slashing their pensions, selling their national assets and wrecking their economy. The weekend’s elections put an end to that cosy, monstrous system. And so in banks across the continent, analysts handier with statistical probabilities than political unknowns tweak their models. Ministers and pundits look on the tumult in Athens and wonder how to shape it into a glib one-liner.
Amid such febrility, it’s natural to want to pass the first verdict on Syriza – and completely dishonest to do so this early. The coalition of leftists numbers Maoists and Trotskyists, alongside others who sound more like Roy Hattersley. Rather than soundbites and polling, their expertise is typically in Japanese monetary policy or Lacanian philosophy. Tony Blair’s eager young shavers – glued to their BlackBerrys for the next line from HQ – they are not.
But instead of speculating about Syriza’s future, we should draw one vital lesson from its very recent past – one that Ed Miliband and his inner circle ought to learn too. Because there’s no way that Alexis Tsipras would have been sworn in as prime minister had it not been for the disastrous and ultimately suicidal behaviour of Labour’s sister party in Greece, Pasok. The death of the country’s main centre-left organisation has been swift and spectacular.