We’ll have more here now and then as we approach the British general election on May 7. But an essential table-setter is offered today by Paul Krugman, who explains the fundamental weakness of the case the Tory/Lib Dem government is having to make for a fresh mandate:

[You hear] claims austerity has been vindicated. Yes, British interest rates have stayed low. So have almost everyone else’s. For example, French borrowing costs are at their lowest level in history. Even debt-crisis countries like Italy and Spain can borrow at lower rates than Britain pays.

What about growth? When the current British government came to power in 2010, it imposed harsh austerity — and the British economy, which had been recovering from the 2008 slump, soon began slumping again. In response, Prime Minister David Cameron’s government backed off, putting plans for further austerity on hold (but without admitting that it was doing any such thing). And growth resumed.

If this counts as a policy success, why not try repeatedly hitting yourself in the face for a few minutes? After all, it will feel great when you stop.

Yes, timing is extremely important in politics. If things are looking up immediately before an election, you may be able to talk some persuadable voters into ignoring what you did to make things worse in the recent past, and get credit for suspending stupidity in in the nick of time.

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Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.