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Merkel unique and her campaign uniquely German, but still lessons in there

Posted on 25 September 2013 | 9:09pm

Below is a short piece I did for Der Spiegel on the German election campaign, first in English and then, a part translated (not by me) German version. I do so wish I had not lost my German. Used to be virtually fluent, now get by. I blame French and France. Favourite language, spend too much time there. But Germany is a wonderful country and German a great language too and Merkel a hugely impressive leader.

Spiegel piece…

It would be very difficult in British politics to have a campaign in the way Merkel has conducted it. She was very low key, not making massive, big visionary speeches, not going to the jugular of her opponents. Ed Miliband is trying to be similarly measured and thoughtful, but he gets attacked for it. Of course, her campaign could have had more heat between her and the other candidates. But why should she go out and take risks?

Most people think a modern politician is somebody who’s out there, Obama-style rhetoric, good looking, young, full of energy. Merkel actually is very powerful, but doesn’t shout about her power. That makes her stronger. Voters aren’t stupid, they have a real sense of authenticity. And that is something Merkel has in spades.
I’m a big fan of Germany, your debates in media and politics are much more intelligent and mature than ours. In Britain we have such a ridiculous debate about Europe, a lot of it is based on lies and myths. When you look at German newspapers, however, you see mountains of words, people read in depth about what’s going on. My impression is that this feeds more healthy discussions.

Of all the major leaders I find Merkel the most impressive, and I would include America and Russia. She has credibility. I’m biased because I’m Labour, but I don’t think David Cameron has that respect. Merkel, Hollande or Putin would certainly not look at Cameron and think, wow, this guy is the same league as Thatcher or Blair.
There is something modern German about Merkel. She emanates a sense and a feeling of what she’s about and that makes her such a successful politician. She has handled the Euro crisis extraordinary well, considering how difficult it must be for Germany having to bail out the rest of Europe – and also how difficult it must be for her to be painted in the poorer countries as a witch who is making their lives more difficult.

Germany is the most powerful nation on the continent. A lot of other countries in that position would swagger and throw their weight about. The nice thing about Germany is that there’s a sense that with great power comes responsibility. I don’t think the relationship between Britain and Germany is going to change a lot after the elections.

It seems as if Merkel has an ability to have a dialogue with her own public on an intelligent level. This can be cumbersome and dense at times, but with most positions she takes you can see where she’s coming from. She’s got the tone right in these times. That’s a very effective form of modern communication.

– German version –

Ein Wahlkampf, wie ihn Angela Merkel geführt hat, wäre in England schwierig durchzuhalten. Sehr zurückhaltend, ohne visionäre Reden, ganz ohne jemandem an die Gurgel zu gehen. Ed Miliband, der Labour-Vorsitzende, versucht gerade, ähnlich zu agieren, aber er wird dafür schwer kritisiert. Natürlich hätte Merkels Wahlkampf, die Auseinandersetzung zwischen ihr und ihren politischen Gegnern, hitziger sein können. Aber warum hätte sie Risiken eingehen sollen?

Die meisten Menschen denken, dass ein moderner Politiker immer präsent, die rhetorischen Fähigkeiten Barack Obamas besitzen, gut aussehen und voller Energie sein muss. Merkel hat sehr viel Macht, aber sie brüllt das nicht zum Fenster hinaus. Das macht sie noch stärker. Die Wähler sind nicht dumm, sie spüren sehr genau, wer authentisch ist.

Ich bin ein großer Fan von Deutschland. Die Art, wie dort Debatten zwischen Politikern und Journalisten geführt werden, ist klüger und reifer als bei uns.
Wir diskutieren in Großbritannien auf die denkbar lächerlichste Weise über Europa, vieles sind Lügen oder Halbwahrheiten. Wenn sich deutsche Zeitungen anschaut, sieht man Berge von Wörtern. Die Menschen können in aller Breite und Tiefe lesen, was gerade passiert. Ich glaube, dadurch entstehen gesündere Debatten.
Von allen Staatschefs ist für mich Angela Merkel am eindrucksvollsten. Sie verkörpert das moderne Deutschland, sie gibt nicht vor, jemand anders zu sein als sie selbst. Zudem agiert sie in der Schuldenkrise außerordentlich geschickt, obwohl es brutal sein muss, halb Europa zu retten und in den ärmeren Ländern als Hexe gebrandmarkt zu werden.

  • Gillian C.

    That’s a very nice piece you did there for Der Spiegel, AC.
    I particularly like this sentence: ‘The nice thing about Germany is that there’s a sense that with great power comes great responsibility.’ That’s so true.
    Contrast Germany’s style and approach towards other nations, with that of the current regime under Obama in the US. The US is not the world’s (self-appointed) ‘policeman’ they have become the world’s tyrant and Obama is looking more and more like the new Hitler.
    Mrs Merkel comes across as a steady,sensible and cautious sort of person. I can’t imagine her looking to start wars with other countries under the pretext of providing ‘humanitarian aid’. She has obviously learned from the past mistakes of other German leaders. Obama should watch and learn.

    • Michele

      I don’t really think invoking Hitler re Obama is on GC (where’s your ‘b’ gorn btw?) although I’m sure he’s only in place due to so little acceptable competition at the last two elections. I’m not sure whether it was hopes for O or the dread of the other/s that kept me up all night at both.

      Statehood seems to stop many Americans realising their HoS’s power is out of proportion with that of other world leaders. Some of that vain ‘style’ needs smothering – making bouncing entrances like a boxer – seemingly-deliberately mis-pronouncing the name of another HoS ….. it might be understandable that Westerners can’t pronounce Chinese properly but someone that doesn’t show the littlest respect …. mispronouncing words he’s surely able to cope with. Go on, show some effort – as in let’s hear the ‘t’ in Putin (you’re not John Wayne).

      • Gillian C.

        Obama is trying to dismantle the US Constitution and rule by executive order. He has even likened the Founding Fathers to a Communist Chinese dictator! He has falsely declared libertarians, constitutionalists, returning veterans and (lawful) gun owners to be America’s number one enemies! He has even encouraged and enabled an Obama Youth Brigade.
        Here’s a couple of quotes attributed to Thomas Jefferson:
        When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When the government fears the people, there is liberty.
        And this one:
        I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around (the banks) will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.

        • Michele

          I’m afraid I’m not a fan of much of what the Founding Fathers had to say, they were another bunch of religious bigots imhoo.

          They claimed to be ‘escaping’ a monarchy yet didn’t think twice about killing off the natives where they landed and stealing it (sorry, ‘buying it’ with something its rightful owners didn’t understand and were easily fooled about).

          Should I mention them ‘owning’ yet other people as slaves (and withstanding the attempts FROM where they’d ‘escaped’ to end that foul practice)?

          As for ‘the right to bear arms’ it was more a civic duty than a ‘right’. From that easily-portable source Wiki it was ‘ …….. influenced by the English Bill of Rights of 1689. This right was described by Sir William Blackstone as an auxiliary right, supporting the natural rights of self-defense, resistance to oppression, and the civic duty to act in concert in
          defense of the state………….’ How many gun owners in America will nowadays need to turn up with their guns to defend the state and therefore need arms to do so?

          • Gillian C.

            Yes it was awful what happened to the native Americans. But there is nothing anyone can do about that now. We can however learn from history.
            you write, ‘How many gun owners in America will nowadays need to turn up with their guns to defend the state and therefore need arms to do so?’ That’s a good and very pertinent question. I would suggest all of them, and sooner rather than later.
            Why do you think the globalist puppet President Obama is so keen to take the guns from the people. History tells us that whenever the people are disarmed, tyranny and mass slaughter always follows. It follows a pattern. e.g. Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and Hitler. As I say, we need to learn from history. Obama and his regime is not working for the good of the US and its people. He is working for the globalists. It’s as if an unannounced coup has taken place in the US. They (the globalists) having bled America dry, will now bring that republic down. They are off to do the same thing to China next. Look at how much of America’s industry has already been moved to China, at the expense of the US. The people of the US are in deep trouble and great danger.
            Ps. I am mindful Michele of the fact that you do not like to look ‘in the shadows’ as you once wrote. I understand and respect that. so I kept what I wrote fairly straightforward and basic. The thing is, these people (the globalists) are now becoming so bold and in our faces, that even those who do not like to look into the shadows (my husband is also one of those people) can no longer avoid the awful reality of their plans coming to fruition, unless they are stopped.

          • mightymark

            Wow – knowing as I did that there was a part of the left that had signed up with the Islamist right I thought nothing could shock me about it any longer, but your sympathy with the US gun lobby had me taking a very sharp intake of breath.

          • Gillian C.

            First of all, I am not part of either of the artificial divides known as the right v the left and I have no sympathy whatsoever with radical Islam.
            I very much support the US ‘gun lobby’ as you put it. American gun owners have a constitutional right to own and bear arms. They have a constitutional right to self defence. Why should they give that up? Do you seriously think that criminals would hand in their guns?
            US government statistics show that in states where they are still allowed to keep guns, the crime rate both for shootings and ‘home invasions’ or burglaries is much lower than in areas where they’ve taken the guns from law-abiding people. Criminals and nut-jobs will always find a way to get guns. The average law-abiding American should never give up their constitutional right to keep and bear arms. History tells us what will happen next if they do.

      • Gillian C.

        Further to my previous post in reply to you Michele and on a much lighter note. Where’s my ‘b’ ‘gorn’ you ask, same place as your own retired ‘b’ I suspect. I just fancied a slight change:-)
        I hope your daughter-in-law is keeping well and having a good pregnancy. Please do let us all know when the baby arrives. I’m guessing/calculating that he or she will arrive before this year is out?

    • mightymark

      “The US is not the world’s (self-appointed) ‘policeman’ they have become the world’s tyrant and Obama is looking more and more like the new Hitler.”

      If only you, and those who wrote similar stuff on blog sites, knew how silly this sounds. And I suppose you do know why the Germans understandably tend towards a quietist stance in international affairs?

      By the end you really give your inability to think straight away – Whoever knew it – old Kaiser Bill and Adolf started their wars on the pretext of providing humanitarian aid? Get away!

  • Ehtch

    She’s got something. Ex-Oz female PM did have too, until she got shafted by that Oz male Labor plonker, Rudd. Yes, Gillard got well and truly ruddered by that idiot in Oz, and he miserably lost, the silly sod.


  • Michele

    I also like Mrs Merkel and have liked all the Germans I’ve met IRL especially Uli :-), most have fabulous SoHs.
    I hadn’t understood (d’uh), till the long TV documentary about her last week, that she’d been born in East Germany.
    I’m sure she’s content with the re-unification of Germany, hopes for equality across Europe but has no ambition for her country to rule it.
    Germany can’t help that some badly-run countries messed up their accounts (where was IMF then?) and there’s no reason for EU to bail them out unrealistically cheaply. Italy’s hard-wroking northerners have put up with supporting while often being screwed by some in its south for decades so who knows, perhaps its present predicament could end up stifling some Mafiosi ‘bankers’?

  • Geordie Bob

    Understated, thoughtful and very efficient, laying out a strategy, and following it step by step, and trustworthy. I am very close to someone from the same country and I recognise the traits very much.

  • CBPwr

    Angela Merkel is a product of Germany’s
    culture of consensus politics. To be able to negotiate, compromise and knowing when to draw the line are key skills every German politician needs to be successful in Government. Angela Merkel is a master of these. I
    don’t think a politician like Merkel would cut the mustard in Britain as it seems that the current trend of aggressive dogmatism currently rule the roost in Parliament.

  • reaguns

    Hugely impressive leader, strong, sensible, calm, with a sense of balance.