Dead Men Left

Monday, August 15, 2005

A spectre is haunting the FT opinion pages

Hooray, hooray, hooray:

In less than give weeks, Germany will make an important political choice - probably the most important it has made since 1969, when it first embraced the politics of social democracy. It is essentially a choice of whether to confront the future through economic reforms or seek refuge in the illusions of a dysfunctional social-market system...

[Oskar Lafontaine's Left Party's] rating has gone up to 12 per cent nationwide - and more than 30 per cent in east Germany, where it is the largest single party. A grand coalition [of the SPD and CDU] would elevate Mr Lafontaine to leader of the opposition, representing both the left and the east. This is a constellation that serves no one except Mr Lafontaine [and, presumably, the left and the east.]...

...there is a small but not insignificant chance that the German electorate will replace Mr Schroeder's government with one that is more to the left, dashing any expectation of reform. What separates us from this nightmare scenario is a fraction of a percentage point in the opinion polls, combined with more-or-less credible pledges by both the SPD and the Greens not to enter into a coalition with Mr Lafontaine.

Now, my guess is that the petty differences currently separating the SPD leadership and the CDU on the big issues would disappear entirely if compared to chasm currently lying between Lafontaine and Schroeder. Even so, the merest hint that a left coalition might be in the offing is causing all the right bowels to spasm in terror. And frightened pit-bulls know only one way to respond:

Germany's opposition conservatives have been split by a row over the country's unemployment-plagued east after a senior party figure dubbed the region's inhabitants "stupid calves" who wanted to vote for "their own butcher" during next month's general election...

Mr Stoiber's criticism was aimed at the 33 per cent of east German voters who have thrown their support behind a new radical "Left Party" which is currently the strongest political force in the region.

"Have you all gone mad?" Mr Stoiber asked voters at campaign rallies in the east. "Only the most stupid of calves vote for their own butcher," he added. His remarks followed similar attacks last week when the Bavarian leader claimed that east Germans voters were "frustrated" and "not as clever" as his native Bavarians.

The ungrateful minority population, turning to the left as a result of their own malign stupidity... it's a familiar rhetorical device.

(Just as an afterthought: some more good news from the Scotsman.)